Puget Sound Energy Crystal Mountain spill

(Information on this site is considered to be accurate at the time of posting, but is subject to change as new information becomes available.)

Puget Sound Energy (PSE) has been working to contain and clean up an estimated 18,000-gallon leak of diesel fuel from the company's backup electricity generator located on Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest land.

Summary information

Date of incident: November 3, 2006
Location:

Crystal Mountain Emergency Generator Station, near Crystal Mountain Ski Resort

(map)
Type of incident: Diesel - 18,200 gallons
Cause of incident: Mis-wiring an electric switch controlling a fuel transfer pump.
Responsible party: Puget Sound Energy
Worker placing pads to absorb diesel in a small stream that flows into Silver Creek.

Worker placing pads to absorb diesel in a small stream that flows into Silver Creek.

Status updates

Summary Statement

18,200 gallons of diesel was released to soil in steep terrain near Crystal Mountain Ski Resort. The source of the diesel was the emergency backup generator owned and operated by Puget Sound Energy. Diesel soaked into soil.  Pushed by heavy rain storms, an estimated 7,971 gallons of diesel entered Silver Creek. PSE, response contractors, Ecology and U.S. EPA conducted a 6 week long emergency cleanup operation to intercept the flow of diesel into the creek and remove diesel contaminated soil.

April 15, 2008

Ecology fines Puget Sound Energy $366,000 for 2006 fuel spill.

December 6, 2006

Efforts by Puget Sound Energy, Washington Department of Ecology, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and U.S. Forest Service to clean up the diesel fuel spill/release continue to be focused on two primary projects:

  • Installing a 1,100 gallon oil-water separator and water treatment system in the 150-foot long interceptor trench to keep diesel fuel and oily water that is flowing underground from reaching Silver Creek. On Sunday, December 3, a temporary oil-water separator was installed after the trench was completed. By early Tuesday morning (December 5), 80 gallons of diesel fuel had been collected in the completed trench.   
  • Excavating soil near the power generating station and along the power line access road that is contaminated with diesel. Diesel that flowed from the generator has soaked into these soils anywhere from a few inches up to 25 feet. 

By Dec. 5, the following cleanup work had been accomplished:

  • 6,974 gallons of spilled diesel has been recovered by pumping pooled areas, absorbing it into pads, or digging up contaminated soil.
  • 622 truck loads of fuel-contaminated soils have been hauled off-site.
  • 32 monitoring wells have been drilled.
  • 1,540 soil and water samples have been collected
  • 516 feet of trenches have been dug (including the primary 150-foot long trench) to contain seeping fuel.

Samples from drinking-water-wells continue to be “non-detect” for petroleum. Drinking water also continues to be supplied to residents as requested (7 residences).

Responders continue to coordinate cleanup activities with the Crystal Mountain Ski Area in an effort to minimize traffic disruptions on Crystal Mountain Boulevard. The cleanup project is currently supported by 98 agency and contract personnel.

December 2, 2006

The unified team of state, federal and private responders (Ecology, EPA/U.S. Forest Service and Puget Sound Energy) continues to coordinate activities to clean up an estimated 18,000-gallon diesel fuel spill within the Crystal Mountain Ski Area. The project is currently supported by 93 agency and contract personnel.

Responders currently are focused on two primary projects:

  • Constructing a 150-foot long, 8-foot deep trench along Silver Creek to keep fuel that has been seeping through soils out of the creek. By November 30, the interceptor trench had been dug. Next steps include lining the trench with heavy plastic to catch underground (ground) water at bedrock level. Clean gravel and perforated pipes will be placed on top of the liner. All water captured in this trench will be directed to a special on-site water treatment system designed to remove any petroleum contamination before the water is released back into Silver Creek.
  • Excavating diesel fuel-contaminated soils downhill from the electrical generator and along the power line access road. The fuel that spilled on November 3 has soaked into these soils at depths between a few inches up to 25 feet. About 40 dump trucks with trailers are being filled with contaminated soil every day. However, due to falling snow and icy road conditions, no trucks were able to run on Monday through Wednesday (November 27-29). The heaviest truck traffic occurs at the night to keep short-term lane closures for spill cleanup activities along Crystal Mountain Boulevard to a minimum. 

By November 30, the following cleanup work had been accomplished:

  • Recovered 6,506 gallons of spilled diesel by pumping pooled areas, absorbing it into pads, or digging up contaminated soil.
  • Removed 165 truck loads of fuel contaminated soils.
  • Collected 301 bags of oily absorbent materials.
  • Drilled 32 monitoring wells.
  • Collected 1,020 soil and water samples.
  • Dug 516 feet of trenches (including the primary 150-foot long trench)

Samples from drinking-water-wells continue to be “non-detect” for petroleum. Drinking water also continues to be supplied to more than a dozen residences while cleanup activities continue.

November 25, 2006

By Saturday, November 25, Ecology, EPA/USFS, and Puget Sound Energy responders have recovered about 5,755 gallons of diesel fuel – another nearly 700 gallons – at the spill site near the Crystal Mountain Ski Area.  State, federal and energy company responders also have coordinated the removal of 94 truckloads of diesel contaminated soils and recovered an estimated 25,710 gallons of oily water mixtures.

The 83 personnel supporting cleanup and removal activities have cleared area trees and are continuing preparation work to build a 150-foot long trench below Crystal Mountain Boulevard. The trench is designed to keep fuel seeps out of nearby Silver Creek. Crews will put oil skimming equipment in the trench and water from the outfall will be diverted through an oil-water separator and effluent-hydrocarbon polishing to help remove petroleum contaminates.

A “haul road” parallel to the power line access road is complete. This road will ensure an efficient flow of truck traffic necessary to move an anticipated 12,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil.

Borehole drilling activities have been temporarily halted. Some drilling is scheduled to resume on Monday, November 26.  So far, 34 boreholes have been drilled and 18 monitoring wells installed at the site. Analysis of the drilling and well monitoring data is ongoing.

Drinking water samples from wells around the lower end of Silver Creek (near State Route 410), as well as near the spill site and at the lower end of the creek are being collected daily. An on-site mobile laboratory continues to analyze selected water and soil samples to provide quicker results. To date, 967 water and soil samples have been collected and analyzed.

So far, all drinking-water well samples have not detected the presence of petroleum. Currently, more than a dozen residences are being supplied with drinking water as cleanup activities continue.

Only minimal and short-term lane closures for spill cleanup activities are expected along Crystal Mountain Boulevard. A traffic advisory has been issued to let motorists know about an expected increase in local truck traffic.

November 22, 2006

Responders from Ecology, EPA/USFS, and Puget Sound Energy will continue coordinating spill cleanup activities within the Crystal Mountain Ski Area during the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday weekend. The project is currently supported by 83 personnel. 

Only minimal and short-term lane closures for spill cleanup activities are expected along Crystal Mountain Boulevard. However, a traffic advisory was issued to inform motorists of the expected increase in truck traffic.

As of Tuesday, November 21, responders have recovered an estimated total of 5,053 gallons of diesel fuel and 25,698 gallons of oily water mixtures. Responders also have:

  • Collected 63 bags of oily absorbents materials
  • Removed 45 truck loads of diesel contaminated soils

Construction work continues on a 150-foot interceptor trench below Crystal Mountain Boulevard to intercept the majority of the identified active-fuel seeps prior to the fuel entering Silver Creek. This trench is engineered with oil-recovery skimmers, and the outfall will be diverted through an oil-water separator and effluent-hydrocarbon polishing.

Construction is near completion on the “haul road” parallel to the power line access road. This road will allow for efficient flow of the truck traffic necessary to move an anticipated 12,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil.

A total of 34 boreholes were completed and 18 monitoring wells have been installed.

Drinking water samples from wells around the lower end of Silver Creek (near State Route 410) continue to be collected on a daily basis. Samples from Silver Creek near the spill site and at the lower end of the creek are also collected daily. 

All drinking-water-well sample results received so far have been “non-detect” for petroleum. Drinking water continues to be supplied to residents as requested (currently 6 residences).

To date, more than 830 samples have been collected and analyzed from soil and water. The on-site mobile laboratory continues to analyze selected water and soil samples to provided quicker results.

Sampling teams continued to collect sediment samples from downstream locations on Silver Creek to characterize environmental effects of the diesel fuel spill to wetlands, shorelines and gravel bars.

November 20, 2006

Over the weekend of November 18-19, muddy conditions, wind, rain and snow, and cold temperatures all affected the speed of cleanup operations at the Crystal Mountain diesel fuel spill site in rural Pierce County.  

Only minimal and short-term lane closures for spill cleanup activities occurred along Crystal Mountain Boulevard. Work activities that affect traffic are being scheduled so that they do not interfere with peak-period ski traffic.

By Saturday, November 18, 86 personnel were supporting the unified response effort involving the state Department of Ecology, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Forest Service and Puget Sound Energy to detect and remove diesel fuel and contaminated soils at the site. So far, responders have:

  • Collected 48 bags of oily absorbent materials and removed 28 truckloads of diesel-contaminated soils.
  • Collected 17,398 gallons of oily water mixtures, including the mixture from the absorbent materials, resulting in recovery of an estimated 2,666 gallons of diesel.

Responders also:

  • Continued to collect sediment samples from downstream locations on Silver Creek to characterize diesel fuel effects on adjacent wetlands and shorelines as well as gravel bars in the creek.
  • Began building a 150-foot trench below Crystal Mountain Boulevard to keep fuel from seeping into Silver Creek. The trench will use skimming devices, an oil-water separator and other equipment to keep petroleum contaminants from causing further environmental damage.
  • Built a temporary road adjacent to and parallel to the power line access road. This temporary road will help truck traffic remove an anticipated 12,000 cubic yards of material – including an estimated 4,000 yards of contaminated soils, 4,000 yards of backfill and 4,000 yards of fill for haul road construction.
  • Deployed a second track-mounted (off-road) drilling rig to assist taking samples on the access road. As of Nov. 18, a total of 29 boreholes were completed and 18 monitoring wells have been installed.

The onsite mobile laboratory continues to analyze selected water and soil samples to provided quicker results.

Drinking water samples from wells around the lower end of Silver Creek (near State Route 410) continue to be collected on a daily basis. Results from creek and wetland samples are expected back in the next two to three weeks.

All drinking-water well sample results received so far have been “non-detect” for petroleum. Drinking water continues to be supplied to residents as requested (currently four residences).

November 14, 2006

Headway continues at Crystal Mountain in response to a November 3 diesel spill, with more drilling, trenching and water testing underway. A mobile laboratory is now in place to help speed the return of water and soil sample results.

Two drilling rigs are working alongside Crystal Mountain Blvd. as part of the effort to track the movement of diesel below the surface and attempt to locate any pooled areas of fuel. A third drill rig will be used by Silver Creek.

A total of seven borings have been made as of this morning, with contamination found as deep as 10 feet in one location.

A small amount of diesel is seeping out of the ground near Silver Creek and is being captured with absorbent pads.  

Workers are also excavating contaminated soil from an access road bed where the diesel fuel spilled. The crews anticipate excavating approximately the top two feel of soil for another 1000’ stretch.

Drinking water samples from wells around the lower end of Silver Creek as well as the creek itself are being taken daily. All water sample results that have come back so far indicate “non-detect” for petroleum and its ingredients (benzene, toluene, zylene).

State and local departments of health continue to monitor the daily water sampling results and will let local residents know when they lift the drinking water advisory.

November 12, 2006

Despite severe weather conditions, cleanup efforts continue on Crystal Mountain where diesel was spilled on November 3.

Another foot of snow has fallen and high winds are expected within the next 24 hours.

Today (Sunday), preparations are being made to dig a trench near Silver Creek, adjacent to Crystal Mountain Blvd.

Soil is being excavated from the nearby power line access road.

Saturday, two probe holes were drilled and four more were drilled today. The probe holes are being used to find the path of the diesel toward the creek.

So far contractors have recovered 2,000 gallons of diesel fuel and approximately 13,000 gallons of oily water.

Drinking water testing from nearby wells is ongoing. Contaminated soil is being taken off-site for proper disposal.

November 11, 2006

Results from testing two small community wells near last week’s diesel spill below the Crystal Mountain ski area have come back clean, according to the Washington Department of Ecology. Wells were tested after approximately 18,000 gallons of diesel were spilled November 3 at Puget Sound Energy’s backup electricity generator on Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest land below the ski area.

The wells were tested for diesel fuel and its constituents: benzene, toluene and xylene. More test results are due tomorrow (Sunday). An estimated 31 cabins take their water from three small community wells in the area. Daily well sampling will continue for at least one week.

Heavy equipment is on-scene today to continue excavation of contaminated soil, and to investigate where the diesel oil may have traveled.

Another foot of snow is predicted to fall this weekend. Again, state and federal authorities are warning motorists to be extra careful and look out for trucks and other response equipment moving in and out of the spill area. Crystal Mountain Blvd. remains open to vehicle traffic.

Approximately 50 additional gallons of diesel fuel have been recovered during the past 24 hours, using absorbent materials and a vacuum truck. The total volume of diesel fuel recovered is now approximately 1,550 gallons.

November 10, 2006

Working in a foot of fresh snow with another 12 inches predicted over the next 24 hours, cleanup crews from Puget Sound Energy, Washington Department of Ecology and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, will begin on Saturday excavating the road where part of an estimated 18,000-gallons of  diesel fuel spilled on Friday, November 3.

Responders are reporting that a light coating or “sheen” of diesel fuel can be seen on the 1,000 feet-long power-line access road to the energy company’s generator. The road runs parallel to Crystal Mountain Blvd. Contaminated rock and soil will be removed as well as any pockets of fuel.

Saturday, more heavy equipment is to arrive at the spill site, located on Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest land below the Crystal Mountain ski area in rural Pierce County.

Snow is making roads in the area more treacherous to drive and local and state officials are asking travelers in the area to be wary of trucks and other response equipment moving in and out of the spill area.

On Friday, November 10, responders also used absorbent pads and boom to soak up a small but continuous seep of diesel fuel before it entered a nearby wetland adjacent to Silver Creek. The creek is about 1,200 feet downstream from the spill site. In addition, responders deployed a vacuum truck to remove diesel fuel.

Ecology expects results from drinking water well testing this weekend. 

The cause of the spill remains under investigation.

November 9, 2006

Despite flooding, road closures, and lack of electrical power, emergency cleanup crews from Puget Sound Energy, Washington Department of Ecology, and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are continuing to clean up an 18,000-gallon diesel fuel spill that occurred on Friday, November 3, at the energy company’s backup electricity generator on Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest land below the Crystal Mountain ski area in rural Pierce County.

Responders have:

  • Recovered about 2,000 gallons of diesel fuel mixed with water, including approximately1,500 gallons of pure diesel fuel.
  • Identified and blocked two different locations where an undetermined amount of diesel fuel earlier had reached nearby Silver Creek.
  • Dug a 100-yard trench next to Silver Creek to keep any more fuel from reaching the stream. Little or no diesel fuel has been observed in the trench.
  • Mapped the potential underground flow of diesel fuel and are drilling exploratory holes to find pockets of fuel at the spill site.
  • Begun assessing effects of the fuel spill in Silver Creek, nearby wetlands and the White River. No oiled fish or wildlife has been observed.

The cause of the spill is under investigation.

November 8, 2006

PSE has issued a health advisory to residents near the diesel leak to continue using bottled water until further notice.
State route 410 is expected to be closed to the public for most of today.

An estimated 2,000 gallons has been recovered.

Recent actions taken: A 200-300 foot trench was dug next to the creek to intercept product flow. Only a minimal amount has flowed into the trench.

Planned actions -  to continue recovery efforts near generator; dig additional holes between road and creek in an attempt to uncover where additional diesel may be found; expand exploration of the area to identify where pockets of diesel in soil and rock may be found.

November 7, 2006

State Route (SR) 410 is closed at Greenwater, Washington due to a log jam. On the other side of the spill site, SR 410 is closed due to a landslide. This means that all the state, federal and private responders are stranded and additional support personnel and  equipment are unable to get to the site.

It appears that the flow of fuel entering Silver Creek has decreased.

Ecology is working with local utilities to dig a trench that will intercept fuel-contaminated water from entering Silver Creek.

Ecology is coordinating with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers who have agreed to notify Ecology if they see any oil sheen near the Corps' Mud Mountain Dam on the White River. So far, no reports of a sheen have been received from the Corps.

November 6, 2006

Puget Sound Energy (PSE) has been working with state and federal agencies since Friday, November 3, to contain and clean up an estimated 18,000-gallon leak of diesel fuel from the company's backup electricity generator located on Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest land below the Crystal Mountain ski area in Pierce County.

Emergency cleanup crews from PSE, Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology), and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have been working around the clock since the initial report of the spill to contain the diesel fuel and protect the nearby wetlands and Silver Creek.

The spill's cause is still under investigation.

On Sunday, November 5, the fuel was observed in Silver Creek, which is approximately 1,200 feet from the spill site and about 15 miles upstream from the town of Greenwater, Wash.

On Monday, November 6, state Ecology officials were concerned that an undetermined amount of diesel fuel had entered Silver Creek due to extraordinary rains and complex soil conditions at the spill site.

Silver Creek is an important salmon-bearing creek. State and tribal fish and wildlife officials have begun conducting wildlife surveys in the area and downstream of the spill site.

Working with the U.S. Forest Service, PSE on November 3 notified homeowners in the area about the spill and recommended safety precautions such as bottled water.

In addition, PSE representatives and outside technical experts were available on Saturday, November 4, during the Silver Creek Homeowners Association's annual meeting at the Greenwater Fire Department to answer questions and concerns about the spill.

Drivers are asked to use extra caution in the area, and responders are asking the public to avoid the area for safety reasons.

Media contact

Ty Keltner, Media contact, ty.keltner@ecy.wa.gov, 360-407-6990, @