EWEB: Oil spill 800 feet downstream from Eugene's drinking water intake

A petroleum-based fluid leaked into the McKenzie River about 800 feet downstream from the drinking water intake for over 200,000 people, the Eugene Water & Electric Board said. The spill has been cleaned up, and there is no threat to the water supply, according to Department of Environmental Quality staff and hazardous materials cleanup crews at the scene. (SBG)

SPRINGFIELD, Ore. - Hydraulic oil spilled into the McKenzie River about 800 feet downstream from the drinking water intake for over 200,000 people, the Eugene Water & Electric Board said.

EWEB relies on the McKenzie River to supply water to customers.

An Oregon Department of Environmental Quality representative says the spill came from a pipe at International Paper.

The oil was supposed to be released into a sewer line that would have ended up at a waste water treatment plant, but it was accidentally released into a pipe that led to the river, according to DEQ.

"Emergency responders stopped the flow of oily water from the pipe and placed booms and materials across the river to help absorb and capture the oil," Oregon DEQ said in a statement. "They are also assessing the McKenzie River shoreline today from Armitage Park, approximately seven river miles downstream, up to the release point to determine if there are any wildlife impacts and any oil that can be cleaned up. The booms will prevent all recreational boating traffic near Hayden Bridge and will remain blocked until the booms are removed."

Hazmat crews are patrolling about a quarter mile of the river to make sure there is no residual coming from the pipe. The cleanup crews are using booms to absorb any remaining oil, but the sheen is no longer visible.

"The release was originally reported to Oregon Emergency Response at 5:50 p.m. on Tuesday," according to Oregon DEQ. "The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife received the initial report of sheen earlier Tuesday and notified International Paper. The company estimates 200 gallons were released."

International Paper issued the following statement Wednesday:

We can confirm there was an incident at our Springfield Mill that inadvertently released an estimated 200 gallons of oil into a discharge pipe that empties into the McKenzie River.
We are investigating the situation with local authorities and doing everything necessary to prevent any affect to the environment, specifically the McKenzie River.
Our Springfield Mill is committed to the protection of the environment as an essential and integral part of our overall strategy.
We have a mill team investigating the matter and we are working closely with the state to ensure this incident does not happen again.
We took immediate action once the oil leak was identified and we safely stopped any further discharge. Again, since the incident, we have been working with appropriate state officials.
We have a vested interest in operating our mill safely and in an environmentally responsible manner because we are a conscientious and caring neighbor and we all work and/or live in this community together.

The company also shared a fact sheet about the Springfield plant.

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