Oil spill cleaned; damage to Bear Creek was minimal

MEDFORD — Crews early Wednesday finished cleaning up 50 gallons of used locomotive oil that leaked into Bear Creek after spilling from a storage container at a Central Oregon & Pacific Railroad yard off McAndrews Road.

In all, about 150 gallons of oil poured onto the ground from the 320-gallon container in the railroad's parking lot about a mile west of Lithia Motors. Fifty gallons of that flowed into a storm drain, traveling east on McAndrews, then south on Court Street until it intersected with an eastbound storm drain that empties into Bear Creek, said Medford Fire Marshal Dan Patterson.

Medford Public Works vacuumed up the oil that remained on streets, while the Medford Fire Department put absorbents in the storm drain.

"There was no indication of oil downstream except a light sheen, but I don't think very much at all made it into the creek," Patterson said. "There were no (dead) fish floating."

The environmental impact of the contamination is not yet known. The case has been referred to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to assess any possible damage, Patterson said.

"We were fortunate because there was debris lodged in the grate of the 72-inch storm drain line," Patterson said. "The debris trapped most of the oil on top and allowed the water to pass through."

It is unknown how the oil escaped from the container, Patterson said.

A passer-by noticed the oil spill and reported it to emergency dispatchers at about 2:15 p.m. Tuesday.

Officials from Central Oregon & Pacific could not immediately be reached Wednesday to explain what caused the spill.

Reach reporter Paris Achen at 541-776-4459 or pachen@mailtribune.com.

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