Fuel cleanup spurred by truck crash in E. Oregon enters backfill stage

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PENDLETON, Ore. — Crews in Eastern Oregon have dug up more than 30,000 cubic yards of dirt to clean up diesel fuel spilled after a truck crash.

The workers dug 53 feet at the deepest point, according to the Department of Environmental Quality, and at its maximum, the hole extends 250 feet long and 160 feet wide, approaching football field size.

Now, crews are beginning to refill the hole, the East Oregonian reports.

Workers involved in the cleanup say it ranks high among such digs in Oregon.

“It is the biggest I have been involved with in 26 years,” said Mike Renz of the state agency. “Without checking records, I believe it is the most cubic yards of soil that DEQ has ever excavated. It is the biggest spill without a doubt — a big dig.”

On March 2, a tractor-trailer towing a fuel trailer for the convenience store chain Maverik went out of control on state Route 37 near Pendleton.

The fuel trailer broke loose and tumbled into a ditch, spilling 5,000 gallons. The fuel seeped through the soil, creating a plume and penetrating basalt fissures until it hit bedrock.

The cleanup got underway, and the crews sent samples to the lab for testing to see how much farther they’d have to dig.

As the hole grew, a century-old farmhouse was demolished, along with a shed. Two wells were capped to protect the water supply in the regional aquifer. Finally, the workers reached safe ground.

“We excavated to almost nondetectable levels. The DEQ is satisfied that everything is cleaned up,” said Dave Ammons, co-owner of Eastern Oregon Environmental Recovery.

DEQ spokesman Greg Svelund said the estimated 30,000 cubic yards is the amount taken off site to be put in a landfill.

Uncontaminated dirt was saved and is being combined with dirt bought from the property owner, Hill Ranches, to backfill the excavation.