Officials Conducting Water Analysis After A Fuel Spill into North Santiam River

Dec 18, 2017

An overturned tanker spilled gas into the North Santiam River after it crashed Friday, Dec. 15, 2017.
Credit Oregon State Police

Agencies working to clean up the site of a semi-tanker crash that spilled gasoline into the North Santiam River focused their efforts Sunday on removing contaminated soil along the riverbanks, sampling water intakes downstream, and monitoring air quality.

Responders from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency conducted water sampling at the crash site and downstream. The only place where they reported seeing and smelling gasoline was in the river at the spill site, behind booms placed in the river to prevent the gasoline from spreading.

EPA responders took water samples from the river at drinking water intakes for Lyons/Mehama, Detroit Lake, Stayton, Gates and Salem. During the sampling they didn't see or smell gasoline and air monitoring at those locations didn't detect the presence of volatile organic compounds -- chemicals emitted by petroleum products.

EPA also conducted air monitoring at some homes bordering Detroit Lake and in the communities of Detroit and Idanha. Responders didn't smell gasoline and air monitoring didn't detect the presence of volatile organic compounds at those locations. Additional air monitoring is planned.

The water samples taken on Sunday will need to be tested for the presence of gasoline. Preliminary results are expected back as early as Monday and reviewed data is expected on Tuesday.

The Oregon Health Authority worked Saturday to notify communities with downriver drinking water intakes. OHA advised those with concerns about drinking water to contact their local water providers. Information is also available at https://yourwater.oregon.gov  In the unlikely event that water is unsafe to drink residents will be notified.

Salem will continue to use backup drinking water supplies from groundwater and reservoir sources until safety concerns have been lifted. 

Oregon 22 in the Santiam Canyon remains closed between milepost 55 at the east end of Idanha to the Santiam Junction where Oregon 22 and U.S. 20 intersect. The Oregon Department of Transportation advises that U.S. 20 is an alternate route for travelers going between the Willamette Valley and Central Oregon. Oregon 22 will remain closed indefinitely because of damage caused by the crash. ODOT is assessing the damage and determining what repairs will be needed.

The crash, which occurred late Friday night, resulted in one fatality. Officials say the driver of the truck, 58-year-old Ronald Edward Scurlock of Redmond died at the scene. The tanker was carrying an estimated 11,600 gallons of gasoline. It is unknown how much of the gasoline burned in the ensuing fire and how much made its way to the river.

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality is coordinating on the response with EPA, OHA, ODOT, Salem, Oregon Office of Emergency Management, Oregon State Police, Oregon State Fire Marshal, Linn County Sheriff's Office, Linn and Marion counties, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, The Confederated Tribes of the Siletz, The Confederated Tribes of the Grande Ronde and The Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs tribes, and others.