City investigates mysterious oil spill in highlands neighborhood

December 4, 2013

By Christina Corrales-Toy

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BA mysterious spill caused a light coating of gasoline or oil to cover streets in the Newcastle Highlands neighborhood Nov. 12.

Newcastle Public Works Department crews enacted spill response procedures, which included containment of the material, prevention from entering storm drains and cleanup.

City staff believes they successfully worked to contain it, Newcastle Surface Water Engineer Laura Frolich said, but there was no certainty about what caused the spill.

City of Newcastle photo An oil spill covering streets in the Newcastle Highlands neighborhood made for slick roads Nov. 12.

City of Newcastle photo
An oil spill covering streets in the Newcastle Highlands neighborhood made for slick roads Nov. 12.

The city worked diligently to prevent the material from entering storm drains, she said, and if it did, at the outfalls, there was material there to absorb any oil.

The neighborhood’s storm drains funnel into detention ponds before entering May Creek. The ponds provide water quality treatment, so it’s likely the pollution never reached May Creek, Public Works Director Mark Rigos said.

“It’s not a threat to the environment and it won’t contaminate any salmon-bearing streams,” Frolich said.

One of the primary concerns was the slick roads, with traction similar to ice. Drivers were encouraged to use caution when driving in the neighborhood.

Frolich said the spill was an odd one in that it covered several neighborhood streets. Staff hypothesized that it could have been caused by a vehicle that has a route through the neighborhood, such as a dump truck or a school bus.

The city contacted Waste Management and the Issaquah School District to see if their vehicles were the source of the leak, but both searches came up empty, Rigos said.

He estimated that the city used about 10-12 hours of staff time for inspection and cleanup of the spill. Material costs ran at about $250 to $300 for items such as absorbent pads.

The spill will be reported to the state Department of Ecology in compliance with the city’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit, Rigos said.

Anyone with information related to the spill should call City Hall at 649-4444.

The streets affected were Southeast 91st Street, Southeast 92nd Street, 140th Avenue Southeast, 143rd Avenue Southeast and Southeast 90th Street.


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