By Marcy Stamper
More than 5,000 gallons of diesel fuel has spilled into the Similkameen River in British Columbia, about 90 river miles north of the border, according to Okanogan County Emergency Manager Maurice Goodall.
The Similkameen River flows from the border into the Okanogan and Columbia rivers.
The fuel — almost the entire load — spilled when a truck near Princeton and Manning Park went over an embankment on Monday morning (April 4), said Goodall.
An emergency response contractor is on site. They have removed the remaining diesel from the trailer and the trailer has been removed from the riverbank, according to the British Columbia Ministry of Environment.
The contractor is establishing two collection points downstream of the spill site, where they will use booms to direct the diesel toward the shore so it can be removed using vacuum trucks, according to the Ministry of Environment.
The Washington Department of Ecology has pre-deployed a trailer with booms and spill-response materials to be ready to act if necessary, according to Joye Redfield-Wilder, public information manager for Ecology.
While it was too soon to say if the oil would contaminate the river on the U.S. side of the border, Goodall said it was estimated on Monday to be one to one-and-a-half days away. The river flow has been estimated as fast as 4 miles per hour, according to Ecology.
The actual spill was only 10 miles from the border, but because the river runs north and then south, the spill is 90 river miles away. As of Monday afternoon, some oil had reached Princeton, British Columbia, at the northern bend before the Similkameen turns south toward the border, according to Ecology.
No one was hurt in the accident, but the British Columbia Ministry of Health advised people who draw drinking or irrigation water from the river to be on the lookout for signs of fuel contamination and not to use river water if it smells or tastes like fuel.