SR-530 slide

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

The Ecology spills program is asked for assistance in managing hazardous containers and materials found throughout the slide area, posing a risk to search teams.

Summary information

Date of incident:  March 22, 2014

Oso, WA

Type of incident: Varied - amount unkown
Cause of incident: Massive mudslide

Status updates

April 25, 2014

A month after a devastating landslide tore apart the community of Oso, hazmat and conservation corps teams working on site from the Department of Ecology transitioned duties to the local jurisdiction in Snohomish County and departed from the response.

The onsite Spills Response team demobilized Wednesday, April 23, after removing remaining hazardous materials and breaking down staging areas. In total, they collected over 400 items of hazards material during their deployment:

(63) 5-gallon propane tanks
(24) 8-50-gallon propane tanks
(14) 120-gallon propane tanks
(2) 250-gallon propane tank
(1) 500 gallon propane tank
(6) Oxygen cylinders
(3) Acetylene tank
(2) 5-gallon helium tank
(3) Small carbon dioxide tank
(226) Hazardous liquid containers, primarily gasoline, motor oils, paints, and household pesticide containers
(13) pole and pad mounted transformers
(50) Small flammable gas containers, propane and butane.

“It was a long, yet incredible month for our responders,” said Dave Byers, response supervisor. “I know there were some tough, emotional times for our teams, but they stood tall and showed up to work day after day while tragic discoveries happened all around them.”
Ecology’s Spills staff helped the response organization develop and implement systems to manage hazardous materials and to provide protection to search crews against chemical and biological hazards.

This included safe staging areas to store hazardous materials prior to shipment for disposal. Each search team had a hazardous materials specialist, usually from a fire department, with training to characterize potentially hazardous items or materials as encountered in the field.

The spills program provided staff expertise to the response organization’s hazmat, environment and health group that provided planning and guidance on these issues.

Ecology’s Washington Conservation Corps grew from one 6-person crew to nine crews (54 AmeriCorps members and staff) on scene at the peak of the search and rescue operations. In total, 83 AmeriCorps Members and 25 staff provided assistance over the course of one month. Each crew deployed for fourteen 16-hour days for a combined total of over 18,500 hours served.

“As this response evolved, so did the roles of our crews — from shoring up logistical infrastructure to providing ground support to responders in the field, our crews tackled each new project with a strong sense of duty and pride,” said Bridget Mason, WCC coordinator.

Although no longer stationed on site, Ecology will continue to provide advice and counsel as needed.

To continue following coverage of this event, visit the Snohomish County’s site.

April 18, 2014

Seven WCC crews continue supporting logistics in Arlington, Oso, and Darrington this week. A new crew is now on scene to replace Darrington Spike Camp crew that will be rotating out on Sunday. Two WCC Crew Supervisors are now acting as Base Camp Manager trainees.

In the field, a WCC crew worked with the National Guard to install an estimated 50 feet of difficult piping to connect to a pump for draining water on the east side of the debris field. This will help in continued recovery operations.

Back at Incident Command and the Darrington Spike Camp, remaining crews continue to support logistics, food, and ground support.

Showing their concern for conservation, crews designed a recycling system at the Arlington ICP. This system ensures that aluminum, glass, plastic, batteries, and food scraps are being diverted from the landfill. The goal of this project is a “no waste” bin system.

Two AmeriCorps members accompanied Incident Command staff in presenting to local students, answering questions about the landslide. As a result of this and community outreach at surrounding schools, nearly 800 thank you cards, letters and drawings have been received at Incident Command. WCC crews added these cards to sack lunches that they distributed to responders. The morale around camp was noticeably improved.

Four Spills Program personnel worked this week as well, providing technical assistance and oversight on assessment and recovery hazardous materials.

The crew from Northwest Region Spills Response that has provided onsite assistance since the event happened March 22, was relieved this week by a crew from Ecology's Southwest Region that operates out of Olympia.

The cross-regional assistance provides an opportunity for the Northwest Team to focus on other responsibilities, plus responders outside the area gain experience working at the site.

To date the team has contained and/or staged 312 hazmat items.

April 10, 2014

Ecology has nine WCC crews supporting the incident. Four Spills Program hazmat specialists are collecting and identifying hazardous materials, and coordinating with local agencies for disposal. So far this week six transformers have been collected along with several other hazmats.

Throughout the week the Spills team has been meeting with representatives from FEMA Safety, Snohomish Health District, U.S. EPA, and the Washington Department of Health. Together the agencies are working to ensure and maintain environmental health and public safety. Washington Department of Labor and Industries personnel are also present in this group and are available to assist Ecology field responders with rapid assessment of any potential hazard encountered.

Today the Spills team is assisting the Snohomish County Health District in collecting coliform bacteria samples. They will also be collecting water samples in the debris pile and some soil samples in undisturbed areas of each side of the slide. The samples will be held for possible future analysis.

To date, here’s a total of hazmats removed from the slide area:
(41) 5-gallon propane tanks
(16) 6-25-gallon propane tanks
(12) 125-gallon propane tanks
(1) 250-gallon propane tank
(5) Oxygen cylinders
(2) Acetylene tank
(1) 5-gallon helium tank
(1) Small carbon dioxide tank
(25) Hazardous liquid containers, primarily gasoline and motor oil
(5) pole mounted transformer
(30) Small flammable gas containers, propane and butane.

 April 6, 2014

Over the weekend Ecology crews built a new staging area on the west side of the site and continued collecting and staging hazardous materials. Transformers, large propane tanks and other materials are scheduled for removal Monday.

April 3, 2014

Ecology WCC crews continued their work today within logistics, ordering, ground support, Oso Camp, Darrington Camp, and facilities. A new assignment includes work on the “drainage crew.”

Two of our experienced sawyers led a WCC crew to an area at the edge of the debris field that is inundated with water. Members of the WCC crew, along with volunteers from Tacoma Mountain Rescue, spent the day clearing a drainage channel to accommodate the incoming rain predicted this weekend. The goal is to dewater this area to facilitate further recovery operations. The Darrington WCC spike camp crew is preparing for an influx of an estimated 200 people this weekend.

OSHA and LNI were on scene reviewing and making technical assistance (non-enforcement regulatory assistance) recommendations to the overall incident health and safety plan. Their input was favorable to the work Ecology’s been performing. Propane companies were also on site today, offering their assistance removing tanks from the debris area.

The King County Sheriff’s office donated five pallets of personal protective suits to the incident. The suits were designed to be protective against chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosive (CBRNE) agents. Although the suits are likely more protection than needed, the sheriff’s office recommended use at a minimum, for raingear or protection against the potential biohazards present. Everyone on scene is grateful and the suits are needed and being used.

An improved temporary waste staging area in Arlington is currently under evaluation and may provide more secure storage from the elements as it is under cover.

At the end of the day, Ecology field operations removed the following hazardous materials from the site for appropriate disposal:

(31) 5-gallon propane tanks
(13) 6-25-gallon propane tanks
(9) 125-gallon propane tanks
(1) 250-gallon propane tank
(4) Oxygen cylinders
(1) Acetylene tank
(1) 5-gallon helium tank
(1) Small carbon dioxide tank
(25) Hazardous liquid containers, primarily gasoline and motor oil
(1) 15-kilovolt pole mounted transformer
(22) Small flammable gas containers, propane and butane.

April 2, 2014

Spills Team
Ecology has helped establish a Hazmat/Environmental Group to plan and coordinate efforts on these subjects. Ecology will be part of this group, joined by the state dept. of Labor and Industries, the Washington National Guard, the EPA, FEMA and the Snohomish County Health District.

Environmental hazards in the slide area reflect the types of materials typically found in rural neighborhoods. We expect search teams to encounter isolated pockets of hazardous items or substances, as in any disaster in a similar neighborhood.

These likely would include tanks (propane, oxygen, acetylene), fuels from vehicles, transformers, household hazardous materials (such as cleaning agents, battery acid, etc.), and biological waste from septic systems.

Search teams have recovered a few dozen five-gallon propane containers, a few welding tanks and some other household hazardous waste containers. Ecology helped lay out staging areas to stockpile hazardous materials until they can be transported for disposal.

Today Ecology is assisting two four-member hazmat teams, one each at the east and west entrances to the slide area. Various fire departments are providing hazmat specialists for these teams on a rotating basis. Today’s teams come from the Boeing and Marysville fire departments.

They are coordinating the loading and transport of the hazardous materials recovered so far for disposal, in cooperation with Snohomish County. The teams are on call to assist when slide area work crews encounter hazardous or potentially hazardous materials.

Many of the homes in the neighborhood had 150-250 gallon propane tanks, and there is one 500 gallon tank known in the area.

At present, while the search focuses on locating slide victims, smaller hazardous materials are collected as encountered by the searchers, while larger items are marked. Further efforts to remove hazardous materials will take place at a later stage of the recovery effort.

Ecology has 48 staff assigned to the response today, 43 from WCC and five from Spills.

WCC Team
AmeriCorps Crews with the Washington Conservation Corps (WCC) have been deployed since March 25th. In total, seven crews are providing logistical and ground support to responders in the field. Each crew is serving a 14-day rotation. Crews are distributed in Arlington, Oso, and Darrington, assisting in Incident Command operations and acting as camp crew support - earning praise from other response organization members. After establishing two tent camps for out-of-town responders, WCC crews in Arlington and Darrington have taken on sanitization of food service facilities, coordination of food distribution, and transport of laundry and garbage. WCC members have been processing inventory, inputting supply orders, organizing response equipment, and delivering supplies to the front lines. The crews have built railed accessibility ramps for the kitchen and shower stations. The crews’ experience with small power equipment has also come in handy. Several members got a troublesome generator back into working order, and have been tasked with keeping the generators fueled and serviced.

WCC members from forestry crews wielded chain saws yesterday to help the Washington State Department of Transportation. WSDOT needed to cut and remove downed trees on slopes above State Route 530 to clear sites for equipment to detect possible earth movement.

Despite long hours, unglamorous work, and an emotionally charged atmosphere, the WCC crews have stayed positive and willing to help with whatever is asked of them.

April 1, 2014

Ecology is continuing the same assignments today as yesterday, with 51 Ecology staff on-scene.

March 31, 2014

About 50 Ecology employees are assisting in the response today.

Seven of Ecology’s Washington Conservation Corps crews are helping with general support throughout the organization, including supply delivery. Each crew has five AmeriCorps members and a supervisor.

Ecology’s spill response staff has assisted in planning and organization for managing hazardous materials. Ecology has established two staging areas for the safe storage and eventual disposal of hazardous items. Recovered objects so far mainly include 5-gal propane containers and a few welding tanks, all typically found in rural disaster sites. 

March 28, 2014 

The WCC assists as the command post moves from city hall to the school building. Other activities include waste disposal, generator operation, food distribution, and supply delivery. WCC also helps transport staff, supplies and equipment to and from the slide location.

Spills travels to the eastern access to the slide zone to establish a hazardous materials staging area and seek out a crew decontamination area.

March 27, 2014 

WCC provides two more crews, from Bellingham and Ellensburg. WCC delivers supplies and equipment to the front lines and continues to prepare for the command post move.

Spills helps plan and set up two temporary safety and environmental facilities near the western access to the slide zone:
1. An area to stage hazardous materials safely prior to disposal.
2. A decontamination area for responders exiting the slide zone where they may have been exposed to chemical or biological hazards.

March 26, 2014 

A Washington Conservation Corps crew of five AmeriCorps members and a supervisor are assigned to assist in moving the incident command post from Arlington’s city hall to vacant space in the former junior high school.

The Ecology spills program is asked for assistance in managing hazardous containers and materials found throughout the slide area, posing a risk to search teams. A three-member crew arrives to assess these risks and develop plans to safely manage these materials.

News releases

Media contact

Larry Altose, Media ,, 206-920-2600