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Ecology Cites Corps of Engineers for Oil Spills

by Associated Press, May 18, 2004

The state Department of Ecology cited the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Monday for more than 33 oil spills at nine dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers over the past five years.

The notice of violation faults the Corps for insufficient training and equipment for dealing with spills.

Most of the spills were relatively minor. Among the largest was about 2,000 gallons of transformer oil at The Dalles in January, said Mary-Ellen Voss, a spokeswoman for the department's spills division.

"If the Corps has a spill tomorrow, they don't have the training or the equipment that's necessary to respond effectively," Voss said.

Theoretically, Monday's letter could lead to fines and other sanctions, but the two agencies plan to work together to resolve the problems, Voss said. Homer Perkins, a spokesman for the Corps' Northwest division, agreed his agency will work with Ecology.

"The Columbia is an important resource to protect," Perkins said. "We're going to do whatever we can do in order to keep oil from reaching the river. Beefing up the readiness takes a couple of things: time and funding."

Two other spills, both in 2000, exceeded 1,500 gallons. The rest were much smaller, Voss said.

Spills came from equipment such as turbines, hydraulic systems and transformers at dams including Bonneville, The Dalles, John Day, Chief Joseph, McNary, Lower Monumental, Ice Harbor, Little Goose and Lower Granite.

Ecology contends the dams pose a substantial risk of polluting the rivers because of the Corps' inability to detect leaks, drains from secondary containment areas that lead directly to the river and staffing levels that keep operators from checking for leaks.

The notice also raises concerns about how the Corps accounts for the amount of oil currently stored.

Related Pages:
Department of Ecology:

Associated Press
Ecology Cites Corps of Engineers for Oil Spills, May 18, 2004

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