A handout photo provided by the U.S. Coast Guard shows containment booms set out by local contractors on the Des Plaines River near the Caterpillar plant in Rockdale, Ill., Monday, Feb. 9, 2009. About 6,000 gallons of waste oil ran into the river after about 65,000 gallons of waste oil overflowed from two holding pits at the Caterpillar plant early Sunday, Feb. 8 after a pump failed. The Environmental Protection Agency says the Des Plaines River shoreline and embankments in suburban Chicago are being scoured to determine if waterfowl or aquatic life were hurt by a big oil spill. (AP Photo/U.S. Coast Guard)
Oil spill contaminates Des Plaines River
Oil spill probe to begin after cleanup
CHICAGO (AP)—The investigation into an oil spill in the Des Plaines River in suburban Chicago will begin later this week, after the mess is cleaned up, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Monday.
About 65,000 gallons of waste oil overflowed from two holding pits at a Caterpillar plant in Rockdale, near Joliet, early Sunday after a pump failed. Most spilled onto the ground, but about 6,000 gallons ran down an embankment and into the river, where it moved for about three miles.
Although environmental damage appeared to be minimal, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and state officials were conducting a comprehensive assessment of the riverbank to determine if waterfowl or aquatic life were harmed, said EPA spokesman Mick Hans.
Meanwhile, high-powered vacuum trucks collected oil from the ground and booms kept oil from moving farther down river. The cleanup was expected to last through Wednesday or Thursday, Hans said.
It was n ot immediately clear how long the pits overflowed before a security guard reported the accident Sunday morning, EPA and Caterpillar officials said. Caterpillar spokeswoman Kate Kenny said it began overnight Saturday.
The pits, about 100 feet from the river, were not surrounded by a backup containment system, such as an earthen berm, but it was not immediately clear if it was required, said Jim Mitchell, the EPA official managing the federal response and cleanup.
Once the cleanup and shoreline assessment are completed, “then the investigation will soon follow,” Mitchell said. That will include determining if the company’s spill-containment plan was adequate, he said.
The spill was relatively moderate, and no heavy pools of oil appeared to collect in the river, Mitchell said.
The river reopened to barge traffic Monday afternoon.
The Rockland plant makes hydraulic components for Caterpillar’s earth movers, Kenny said.
Sludge spill contaminates Des Plaines River
ROCKDALE (AP) - An Environmental Protection Agency spokesman says environmental impact is minimal after a 65,000-gallon oil waste spill in southwest suburban Chicago.
EPA spokesman Jim Mitchell says crews have made progress with overnight cleanup efforts on land and have contained areas where the oil waste seeped into water.
Authorities say a holding tank at a Caterpillar facility in Rockdale broke early Sunday. About 6,000 gallons contaminated a 3-mile section of the Des Plaines River.
The substance was reported to be hydraulic and cutting oil.
Peoria-based Caterpillar says it immediately notified authorities about the spill and has hired a contractor for cleanup efforts.
“It is being contained, and there is no evidence of a fish kill or harm to waterfowl,” Maggie Carson, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, said in an e-mail to The Associated Press.
Most of the oil spilled on land, but 6,000 gallons seeped into Des Plaines River water, U.S. Coast Guard petty officer William Mitchell said. He said the oil waste poses no risk to human health.
But “if there’s an animal in that 3-mile area, they definitely could be in trouble,” Mitchell said. The Coast Guard also said barge and boat traffic along the river had been stopped.
Peoria-based Caterpillar Inc., the world’s largest maker of mining and construction machinery, said in statement Sunday evening that, “an undetermined amount of waste oil” overflowed from a storage area at the company’s manufacturing facility in Joliet.
“Caterpillar has notified appropriate authorities about this overflow and the company immediately began corrective action when the overflow was discovered,” the statement said. “The company is coordinating efforts to contain and remediate this overflow.
State and federal EPA response teams, as well as teams from Caterpillar were working with local organizations to clean the area, Carson said. She said the focus on Sunday was containment and there was no estimate on how long it would take to clean the area.
Federal EPA spokeswoman Ginny Narsett says the cleanup will take at least a few days.
The federal agency said the oil waste leaked when a pump failed on a 40,000-gallon open-air holding tank.
The U.S. Coast Guard is surrounding the contaminated water with a floating wall, Mitchell said. He said that two vacuum trucks on the scene would suck up the sludge.
The Joliet Police Department said it hadn’t ordered any evacuations in the area and that it wasn’t aware of any ordered by other law enforcement agencies.
“Caterpillar is committed to being a responsible environmental steward and community partner, and the company will investigate the cause of this incident and will put in place management practices that minimize the potential for future occurrences,” the company said in a statement.