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Boat ramps closed after oil spill in McKenzie River

Clean up is underway after hundreds of gallons of oil spill in McKenzie River.

Posted: Mar. 15, 2018 6:17 AM
Updated: Mar. 15, 2018 6:34 PM

SPRINGFIELD, Ore -- Several boat ramps are closed while clean-up is underway after an oil spill in the McKenzie River.

About 200 gallons of oil spilled in an area located 800 feet upstream from EWEB's drinking water intake at Hayden Bridge. It provides water to the City of Eugene and other communities. Officials say drinkning water has not been affected. 

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality says they responded to the spill Tuesday. The department says the oil came from the international paper plant on North 42nd St. The plant had a break in their hydraulic line. That oil then went into a clean water pipe on the site. From there, the oil traveled about two miles down the McKenzie river. Emergency crews were able to stop the flow of oily water from the pipe. They've since placed booms and materials across the river to help absorb and capture the oil.

As of Thursday, the D.E.Q. said they didn't yet know the extent of the damage. They said the water was still being tested. Results could be available as early as Friday. 

The Hayden Bridge, Bellinger, and Hendricks Bridge Boat ramps are all closed to support the river clean up. Boaters are asked to avoid those areas. Vehicle access to the boats will also be blocked by construction barricades.

Boat ramp locations:

• Bellinger Boat Ramp is located on Oak Point Road (off of Camp Creek Road)
• Hayden Bridge Boat Ramp is located at 3400 Hayden Bridge Road (near the intersection of Hayden Bridge Road and Marcola Road)
• Hendricks Bridge Boat Ramp is located at 38870 Hendricks Park Road (between mileposts 11 and 12 on Highway 126 east)

One local business, Helfrich.com, said they've been affected by the spill, having to shut down operations for days. The company provdes boating, fishing, and rafting trips. They've been on the river for almost a century.

"The river is very important for the economy. The tourism is just huge. There's probably somewhere close to 70 or 80 guides that operate on the river and they rely on it for income," Aaron Helfrich, owner of the company said. 

The D.E.Q. said they are still investigating at this point, but so far, they have not seen evidence of any wildlife being affected. But, they say, that's not out of the realm of possibilities. As of Thursday they were still working to get the spill cleaned up as quickly and effectively as they could. "We want to make sure that the cleanup is done right. At this point I don't have an estimate on how much longer that will take but we just want to make sure that the levels are safe that the cleanup is done properly," Katherine Benenati, with the D.E.Q., said. 

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