Department of Ecology News Release - March 27, 2017

Source of mystery spill in Columbia River found

Fueling business helped find its own leaking underground pipes

Aerial view of Coleman Oil, Inc., in Wenatchee.

A coordinated investigation by state and federal authorities in Wenatchee has identified Coleman Oil, Inc., a fueling facility near the Columbia River, as the source of the biodiesel spill that has been leaking into the river.

The search for the source narrowed last week when spill responders identified the product as biodiesel. The investigation then focused on the facility because of its location near the river and because it handles biodiesel.

The company worked cooperatively with state and federal officials over the weekend to excavate parts of their site. What they found were leaking pipes and soils saturated with red and yellow biodiesel fuels.

“The samples in the soil and the pipes matched the samples we’ve collected from the river,” said Dave Byers, who manages Ecology’s statewide spill response program. “We appreciate the company helping us locate the source of the leak.”

Bob Coleman of Coleman Oil, Inc. said, “At Coleman Oil Company a core value of ours is environmental stewardship. We deeply regret that there was a release to the environment that appears to have originated at our Wenatchee facility. We will work diligently to contain and eliminate the release, in continued cooperation with federal, state, and local agencies.”

The oil sheen was first spotted on the river the evening of March 17. A diesel odor was reported in the area between Thurston and Chehalis Streets in Wenatchee.

By March 18, state, federal and local partners formed a Unified Command to respond, involving the Department of Ecology, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Chelan Emergency Management, with support from several federal, state and local agencies. The Washington State Patrol, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, City of Wenatchee, and Chelan County Fire District 1 also provided on-scene resources to support the spill.

Photos can be found on Ecology’s Columbia River Biodiesel Spill Flickr album.

Contact information

Sandy Howard
Communications manager