BEND, Ore. - The Oregon Department of Transportation gave its first estimate Monday of how long state Highway 22 near Idanha will remain closed, in the wake of a fiery, deadly fuel tanker crash late Friday night that killed a Redmond man.
The crash on the icy highway spilled more than 11,000 gallons of gasoline on the road. ODOT spokesman Peter Murphy said it won’t reopen until at least Thursday.
He said about 300 feet of highway was damaged, and a contractor is now looking at how deep the spill and heat damage goes and is deciding on the best approach. But the weather might prevent a complete fix for now.
“You can only pave when the temperatures are at a certain point,” Murphy said. “So, it could be too cold for us to put asphalt down. We’re trying to resolve whether we’re going to leave it as rock (gravel) or pave it.”
Murphy said the road will still be usable without paving, albeit with slower traffic, but ODOT will have to go back in later to complete the work.
Right now, people heading from Central Oregon to the Willamette Valley are being urged to take Highway 20 through Sweet Home or Highway 26 through Government Camp, over Mt. Hood.
There was good news late Monday on one environmental front. The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality said preliminary reports of samples taken at drinking water intakes downstream of the crash site along the North Santiam River near Detroit did not show the presence of gasoline. A more detailed analysis is expected Tuesday.
On Sunday and again on Monday, responders from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency took water samples at drinking water intakes for Lyons/Mehama, Stayton, Gates and Salem. The intake for the Minto Fish Hatchery, owned by the U.S. Army Corps Of Engineers, was sampled as well, at the request of the facility.
The preliminary data reported Monday was from samples taken on Sunday. On Tuesday, EPA is expected to receive final data from Sunday's sampling activity, as well as preliminary results from samples collected on Monday. During the sampling, responders didn't see or smell gasoline and air monitoring at those locations didn't detect the presence of gasoline vapors.
Excavation work on the site continues. So far, 300 cubic yards of contaminated soil has been removed along Highway 22. Soil sampling to determine the extent of contamination is ongoing. Booms are deployed on the river beside the crash and spill site, to try to help prevent residual gasoline from migrating downstream
Also on Sunday, EPA 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 gasoline vapors at those locations.
Additional air monitoring and water sampling is planned.
DEW also said the agency will work with contractors for the trucking company, Central Petro, out of Bend, to ensure a long-term river water monitoring plan is in place.
Greg Svelund, a public affairs specialist with the DEQ, said spills like this are not uncommon, but they’re not usually this size.
Svelund said his region is not involved in this particular cleanup, but when something like this happens, the first priority is isolating and removing the contaminated land, to keep the fuel from seeping into the adjacent North Santiam River.
He said it’s a challenging cleanup, partly because the fast-moving river will carry any pollution quickly, but other substances, like oil, are much more difficult.
“The good thing about fuel is that it volatilizes pretty quickly,” Svelund said. “So as it’s going downstream, you see a sheen on the water. It’s lighter than water, so a lot of it volatilizes and goes to the atmosphere.”
He said ODOT will have to dig out all the fuel-soaked soil before rebuilding the road.