SPRINGFIELD, Ore. -- Emergency responders are constantly preparing for the unexpected, and on Thursday several agencies were on the McKenzie River putting their skills to the test in an oil spill training.
Since 2005, EWEB has organized an annual training to help first responders develop skills they need to effectively and efficiently deal with hazardous material spilling into rivers.
Organizers said Thursday’s hypothetical scenario involved a fuel tanker crashing near Hendricks Bridge, releasing an estimated five-thousand gallons of diesel into the McKenzie River.
First responders who participated in the Spill Drill then set up fast-water containment booms, deployed fuel recovery equipment and performed other tasks to minimize the spread of the diesel.
Back in March crews had to use these skills in a real situation, involving an oil spill from International Paper that affected parts of the McKenzie River.
Since that encounter, they have modified the tactics they use when trying to handle a spill.
"By the time we heard about the International Paper spill, the majority of it was already downstream,” said Kart Morgenstern, Water Quality Supervisor with EWEB. “And so we were just setting up a system in case additional burps came out of the pipe. Then we learned our initial strategies upstream of here wasn't as effective as it could have been. So then from that spill, we learned we should go downstream a little bit, which seems like a better spot to collect oil."
Thursday’s training included a handful of local agencies: Lane County Sheriff's Office, Springfield Utility Board, and the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.