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Oil Spill Prompts Warning To Avoid Miles-Long Stretch of McKenzie River

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Following an oil spill, people are warned to avoid an 8-mile stretch of the McKenzie River -from Springfield’s Hayden Bridge to Eugene’s Armitage Park- until further notice. KLCC’s Brian Bull reports.

EWEB confirms that a report was called in to a supervisor late Tuesday afternoon, about a spilled chemical in the McKenzie. Joe Hardwood is EWEB’s public information officer.

Credit International Paper
Aerial view of International Paper's mill in Springfield, Oregon.

“And he was able to determine that the spill, the leak into the river was about 800 feet below EWEB’s water intake," says Joe Harwood, EWEB's Public Information Officer.  "So there was never a threat to EWEB’s water, or to our customer’s drinking water.”

About 200 gallons of hydraulic oil was spilled. The leak was traced to the International Paper mill in Springfield.

Jennifer Flynt of the Department of Environmental Quality says crews are cleaning up.

Credit EWEB
A containment boom, used to trap "sheen" and other contaminants, on the McKenzie River, after being lowered into the water Wednesday.

“International Paper originally thought the oil went into a sewer line that led to a wastewater treatment plant," Flynt tells KLCC.

"And our primary focus is on the investigation and a determination on any fine that would come later.”

Since 2002, EWEB partners with local and federal agencies on spill response, through the McKenzie Watershed Emergency Response System.

Meanwhile, Lane County has declared that three boat ramps are closed until further notice to facilitate clean-up efforts.  Access to the Hayden Bridge, Bellinger, and Hendricks Bridge boat ramps will be blocked by construction barricades.

Assistant Search and Rescue Coordinator Jason Bowman of the Lane County Sheriff’s Office says “The presence of booms in the river and other obstructions related to the clean-up effort pose a safety hazard for boats. We need boaters to avoid those areas until further notice.”

And in an emailed statement to KLCC, International Paper says it's got a mill team investigating the incident to ensure it doesn't happen again.  
Copyright 2018, KLCC.

Brian Bull is an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Oregon, and remains a contributor to the KLCC news department. He began working with KLCC in June 2016.   In his 27+ years as a public media journalist, he's worked at NPR, Twin Cities Public Television, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including four national Edward R. Murrow Awards (22 regional),  the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award, Best Radio Reporter from  the Native American Journalists Association, and the PRNDI/NEFE Award for Excellence in Consumer Finance Reporting.
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