Oil spill clean-up continues

January 21

Last week’s mineral oil spill at The Dalles Dam may have caused the deaths of 185 juvenile shad — but that cannot yet be proven.

“It is entirely possible that these shad could have died before this spill and until we get a toxicology report we just won’t know,” said Matt Rabe, spokeperson for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

As of press time on Tuesday, he said Oregon and Washington state wildlife officials had not found any birds with oiled wings or other injured animals.

And both the Wasco-Sherman Health Department and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, affiliated with the Center for Disease Control, have rated the risk to humans as “extremely low.” Rabe said the Corps will announce the exact cause of death for the shad as soon as it gets the official word from scientists.

“We take these matters very seriously and we have coordinated a cleanup effort with state and federal agencies that we feel is going very well at this point,” he said.

Last Thursday, an unknown volume of oil was discharged into the Columbia from above The Dalles Dam. The problem was blamed by the Corps on the seal failure of an electrical transformer.

The unit was located on the roof of the powerhouse and was exposed to freezing temperatures that cracked the seal. The light-grade mineral oil that was used as a coolant for the transformer contains polychlorinated biphenyls in a concentration of 8 parts per million. Rabe said that level is considered by the the U.S.

Environmental Protection Agency to be non-hazardous.

Rabe said the exact amount of oil that escaped into the river is unknown, although officials plan to pinpoint that number this week. He said the transformer contained three large boxes that each held up to 6,000 gallons oil.

However, the unit had been shut down last fall and one of the boxes completely drained at that time. A maintenance crew had also removed a large quantity of fluid from another box just prior to the spill. The contents remaining after the spill have since been removed and officials are reviewing work records to determine the amount of seepage.

“We’re still doing the math to figure out how much and hope to have a number within the next day or two,” said Rabe.

NRC Environmental (formerly Foss Environmental) is conducting the cleanup and has placed 4,000 “booms” of absorbent materials at sites where the oil has pooled and along the mouth of tributaries to prevent contamination. Rabe said oil has been collected at Bonneville Dam and some sheen has been observed downriver from that hydropower plant.

However, he said both Oregon and Washington environmental protection agencies have determined those patches of oil are small enough to be “nonrecoverable,” according to Rabe.

The mop-up effort is expected to be completed by the end of the week.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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