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Crews clean up diesel fuel spill at Dash Point State Park

A diesel fuel spill at Dash Point State Park, in Federal Way, is seen from the FB Hoit bridge. The spill originated when a fuel tank, stored at the park, malfunctioned Thursday night. The tank is being used to run equipment necessary to repaint the bridge. The Department of Ecology is still unsure how much of the 300 gallons of fuel was deposited into the nearby Thames Creek and Puget Sound.  - Jacinda Howard, The Mirror
A diesel fuel spill at Dash Point State Park, in Federal Way, is seen from the FB Hoit bridge. The spill originated when a fuel tank, stored at the park, malfunctioned Thursday night. The tank is being used to run equipment necessary to repaint the bridge. The Department of Ecology is still unsure how much of the 300 gallons of fuel was deposited into the nearby Thames Creek and Puget Sound.
— image credit: Jacinda Howard, The Mirror

Crews continued cleaning up a diesel fuel spill Friday at Dash Point State Park.

The spill originated from a recently-filled 300-gallon fuel tank, owned by a private contractor, being used for a state Department of Transportation project in which the nearby FB Hoit bridge is being stripped and repainted, DOT spokesman Mike Murphy said.

Around 7 p.m. April 29, the spill was discovered by a Washington State Parks and Recreation Commissioner ranger. The ranger discovered fuel leaking from the tank into the park's parking lot, where the tank was stored. The fuel flowed across the parking lot, down a hill and into the nearby Thames Creek, which empties into the Puget Sound just a few hundred feet from the state park.

The Washington state Department of Ecology (DOE), the U.S. Coast Guard and South King Fire and Rescue responded to the spill during the wee morning hours Friday. DOE was notified of the spill around 10 p.m., spokesman Larry Altose said. Sorbent pads, containment booms and an underflow dam were placed in and across the creek overnight to soak up the spill and prevent more oil from reaching the Puget Sound.

The overnight efforts appear to be keeping more fuel from reaching the Puget Sound, DOE incident commander Shannon Dickson said. At its peak early Friday morning, the spill is estimated to have caused a roughly one-half square mile white sheen on the surface of the Puget Sound, Dickson said. The sheen dissipated by 2 p.m. Friday.

It's unknown the precise amount of fuel that made its way to the Puget Sound, Dickson said. The tank is mostly empty. Fuel spreads fast in water and as little as 2 gallons can cause a large sheen, she said. Regardless of the amount that made it into the creek and the Sound, DOE is taking the incident seriously.

"Any spill is serious because oil is toxic," Altose said.

Most of the fuel soaked into the soil bordering the parking lot and creek, Dickson said. The area still had the faint smell of fuel and the park was closed April 30.

National Response Corporation, a private environmental cleanup contractor, was on site responding to the spill. DOE oversaw the work. The contractor deployed a boat into the Puget Sound around 9 a.m. It pulled a strip of material designed to skim oil from the water's surface.

Later in the afternoon, the contractor removed contaminated soil and debris from the spill site and nearby beach. The soil was replaced with new dirt to prevent further contamination. Oil in dirt continues to seep into the environment over time, Dickson said. The contaminated soil will be analyzed in an effort to determine exactly how much fuel escaped the tank, Altose said.

The investigation should reveal the cause of the leak, he said. The spill appears to be a result of mechanical failure of the holding tank, Dickson said. The ranger witnessed the fuel being pumped out from the top of the tank, and a faulty filter could be to blame, Dickson said.

The investigation should also help DOE and DOT staff figure out a timeline of events and if the proper reporting procedure was taken, Altose said. A few hours elapsed between the time the spill was discovered and the time it was reported.

"A major spill needs to be reported promptly," he said.

No immediate impacts to wildlife were seen at the site. The contractor and DOE have removed as much of the toxins from the water and dirt as possible, Altose said. However, that does not mean the diesel won't have negative unseen effects on wildlife, he said.

"We hope the impact will be minimal because of the cleanup that's been done," he said.

The painting contractor is responsible for the cleanups costs, Altose said. National Response Corporation was hired by that company. This is normal procedure unless DOE does not know who caused the spill, he said. The painting firm may be cited if the investigation reveals there was negligence or a violation on its part, Altose said.

The park will remain closed throughout the weekend. The equipment in the creek will stay and be replaced periodically for the next few weeks as a safety measure, Dickson said. The beach is accessible to private homeowners living beachside.


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