Willard Bay fuel cleanup less than previously reported

Mar 27 2013 - 6:07am

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(Standard-Examiner file photo)
(Standard-Examiner file photo)

WILLARD BAY -- Authorities leading the Willard Bay State Park diesel fuel spill cleanup say the amount of fuel they've recovered is less than they believed last week.

In a news release Tuesday, the Willard Bay Unified Command revised its estimate of how much fuel has been cleaned up to 14,868 gallons, down from Friday projections of 21,252 gallons.

Environmental Protection Agency spokesman Matthew Allen said Friday's numbers were off because cold temperatures in the recovery tanks delayed the separation of water from the oil, resulting in the collected water being included in the estimates.

Allen said Friday's projection of 25,200 to 27,300 total gallons spilled from the Chevron-owned pipeline has not changed. The release states a new total spill estimate will depend on further recovery efforts.

The revised numbers came as the Division of Water Quality released information suggesting the spill will have little or no ongoing effect on humans or the environment.

In a news release, the DWQ said only four of 27 water samples taken near the spill showed trace amounts of hydrocarbons, a level that isn't dangerous to humans or animals.

The DWQ will continue to monitor the water, however.

"Based on our preliminary data, use of the reservoir water as a drinking water source, and any recreational uses, such as swimming and fishing, are safe," DWQ toxicologist Chris Bittner said in the release. "We were fortunate that the migratory birds that use the Willard Bay wetland haven't arrived yet."

However, the spill has not been without environmental cost. Three more beavers were discovered in the spill Tuesday, adding to three others found last week. DaLyn Erickson-Marthaler, executive director of the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northern Utah, said the beavers were found Tuesday in their lodge, which has been credited with containing the spill in a retention pond and keeping fuel from reaching the bay.

Erickson-Marthaler said the beavers were being transported to the rehabilitation center for care after having been exposed to the fuel. Reports from workers who found the beavers indicated they were fairly strong, though there is concern about the condition of their skin.

The three beavers found last week are still being treated as well.

"We're not out of the woods yet," said Erin Adams, a member of the rehabilitation center's board of directors, "but all three have started eating, and their conditions are looking up."

The spill was discovered March 18, and cleanup efforts have been going on ever since.

The exact cause of the spill is still unknown, but a failure of the longitudinal seam of the pipeline is believed to have been a factor.

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