Environmental regulators were notified Wednesday of an estimated 220,000-gallon oil spill contained inside a Vancouver asphalt plant.
Workers discovered the spill around 7 a.m. Wednesday at Albina Asphalt, 1300 W. Eighth St. The plant’s company president, Jeff Arntson, said the spill occurred some time after 5:30 a.m., when workers selling a load of asphalt saw no problems with the tank.
“We’re attempting to recover as much of it as we can while it’s still flowing,” Arntson said.
The Southwest Washington Clean Air Agency and the Department of Ecology were notified, along with the neighboring Port of Vancouver. The floor of the tank evidently failed, forming a hole, which spilled hot asphalt oil into a containment area, said SWCAA executive director Bob Elliott. The oil flowed downhill, forming a pool about 2 feet deep.
“It’s a large enough quantity it’s going to take some considerable effort on the part of Albina Asphalt and their contractor to clean up the site,” Elliott said. “At this point in time, it’s not clear how long the cleanup will take.”
The liquid asphalt is contained inside the property, which is surrounded by a dike, Elliott said.
Elliott said the odor released by the spill was minimal. However, residents in the surrounding neighborhoods described the smell as strong. Jamie McClure, who lives around Lincoln Avenue and West 19th Street in the Hough neighborhood, said it “smelled like someone was burning a tire in their wood stove.”
Linda Kent, spokeswoman with the Department of Ecology, said that 20,000 to 30,000 gallons will be vacuumed into other tanks on site. Once the rest solidifies, it will be removed with excavators and front loaders. Kent said that it’s too soon to determine whether any soil absorbed the liquid. If so, it will have to be removed as well.
“One of the good pieces of news is that it didn’t reach water,” Kent said, adding that no one was hurt.
The SWCAA and the Department of Ecology are monitoring the spill, and they’re still trying to determine why the tank failed. The terminal is one of three regional plants run by Albina Fuel, a distributor of petroleum products in Oregon and Southwest Washington. The other two plants are in Klamath Falls and Madras, Ore.