City News

Salem says drinking water is safe after fuel spill Sunday

A portion of Highway 22 has to be excavated and rebuilt following a fuel truck spill Sunday. (Courtesy/Oregon Department of Transportation)

Salem’s water is safe to drink following a fuel tanker spill Sunday morning on Highway 22, the city said in a news release Monday.

A Space Age fuel truck was carrying more than 10,000 gallons of fuel when it overturned 70 miles east of Salem on Highway 22 around 8 a.m. on Feb. 16. Of the 7,871 gallons of diesel that spilled into the North Santiam River, crews recovered about 2,830 gallons by Sunday evening, the Department of Environmental Quality said.

The spill occurred upstream of two reservoirs that supply Salem and Stayton’s drinking water.

DEQ spokesman Harry Esteve said the agency doesn’t know how far downstream the fuel has gotten, but most of it spilled into a ditch.

“What we’ve seen so far is not of drinking water concern,” Esteve said. “We’re still monitoring, and we still don’t know the full extent.”

Highway 22 is closed to thru traffic from milepost 53, just west of Idanha, to milepost 81 at Santiam Junction until Friday or Saturday, Oregon Department of Transportation spokesman Lou Torres said.

He said a 600-foot stretch of the highway has to be excavated to remove contaminated soil and the road has to be rebuilt.

There were booms put in the water and along the river to prevent fuel from going any further downstream, Esteve said.

He said the Environmental Protection Agency is collecting water samples at two-mile intervals from the spill.

A sheen is visible a few hundred feet downstream from the spill, DEQ said.

Heather Dimke with Salem’s Public Works Department said the city hasn’t had to make any changes to its water system as of Monday.

If water quality becomes an issue, she said the city can close the intake gates at the Geren Island treatment facility and supply the city with water the plant stores.

Salem Fire Department’s hazardous materials team, Public Works Environmental Response team, officials from DEQ and ODOT were onsite Sunday containing the spill. 

Have a tip? Contact reporter Saphara Harrell at 503-549-6250, [email protected] or @daisysaphara.