Diesel spill cleanup totals 506 barrels from Willard Bay State Park

Published: Saturday, March 23 2013 11:16 a.m. MDT

WILLARD — An estimated 506 barrels of diesel have been recovered from Willard Bay State Park, with an additional 100 to 150 barrels remaining to be gathered, according to  Willard Bay Unified Command.

Members of the Environment Protection Agency, the Utah Department of Environmental Quality, and Chevron make up the command team that has marshaled 90 employees and contractors working on-site in cleanup operations.

Officials offered the update Friday night and noted 3,000 feet of boom has been deployed to control the spill. They said water samples outside the containment area "has identified trace elements of related compounds; however, the concentrations are at very low levels," according to a press release issued by the group.

The impact of the Monday breach of the 8-inch pipeline owned and maintained by Chevron Pipe Line Co. continues to be assessed as the contamination site, which includes a small, free-flowing stream, is cleaned.

A third  beaver pup believed to be from the same litter as two others is being cared for at an Ogden wildlife rehabilitation center after diesel fuel coated the animals. The animals are being treated for both ingestion of diesel and for coating on their fur.

John Whitehead, assistant director of the state Division of Water Quality, said scientists have been concentrating sampling efforts outside the absorbent boom on the west side of Willard Bay to determine if any diesel fuel has reached the reservoir.

Whitehead said sampling will ramp up this weekend inside the zone to monitor the footprint of the leak and how quickly it may be abating.

The pipe runs 168 miles to a Burley, Idaho, refinery and continues into Washington state. The company has not disclosed its safety record.

Whitehead said the continuing concern over water quality is that the stream fans out into the wetlands, which are an integral part of the Great Salt Lake ecosytem, one of the premier global "flyways" for millions of migratory waterfowl.

Phil Douglass, northern outreach conservation manager with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, said the Box Elder County reservoir north of Ogden is one of the state's prime fisheries, home to 100,000 angler hours in a year.

"We always have concerns when you have a spill or leak like this," Douglass said. "We've been watching for impacts to fisheries and will continue to watch vigilantly over this area for any impacts."

Aquatic entomologists and wildlife biologists don't yet know the full extent of what those impacts may be, but as of Friday, Douglass said the trio of beavers are the only known wildlife impacted.

DaLyn Erickson, executive director of the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northern Utah, said the three young animals have been scrubbed of the diesel fuel and are now under a strict regimen of medical care that includes antibiotics and Kaopectate to help coat the gastrointestinal tract.

It is impossible to tell how long their recovery will take or when or where the beavers may be released, she added.

Unlike crude oil, diesel fuel is not sticky or viscous and rapidly dilutes in open water, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The agency cautions that in terms of toxicity to water-column organisms, diesel is considered to be among the "most acutely toxic" of oil types. Fish, invertebrates and seaweed that come in direct contact with a diesel spill may be killed.

Birds are contaminated through direct contact, although the agency said the number of birds affected is usually small because of the short time the oil or fuel is on the water surface. Death can be caused by ingestion during preening as well as by hypothermia from matted feathers.

Erickson said the nonprofit-all-volunteer center has received great support from the community as well as businesses to help care for the young mammals.

The center is licensed for its rehab work by the state and federal government and sees about 2,000 animals a year, relying entirely on donations.

E-mail: amyjoi@deseretnews.com

Twitter: amyjoi16

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