Quick reaction minimizes damage but wildlife is still at risk

Birds, snakes, frogs and other wildlife in and near Fairview Creek and the wetlands near Northwest Birdsdale Avenue and Northwest Division Street are at risk because an oil spill at Gresham Dodge on Northeast Burnside Road. by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - NRC Environmental Services employee works to remove oil from wetlands at Northwest Birdsdale Avenue and Northwest Division Street.

The company and the Department of Environmental Quality are continuing to respond to the spill, which occurred overnight Sunday, Sept. 9.

At this point most of the oil has been cleaned up. According to Mike Greenburg of the DEQ, the stormwater system the oil traveled through appears to be clear, and if that’s the case no more oil will enter the creek or wetland area.

Greenburg said aquatic animals — such as birds and frogs — can cover themselves in oil. In their efforts to clean themselves they ingest the oil, thus poisoning themselves.

Greenburg said just a small amount of oil made it into the creek and wetland. He explained that once the oil has a rainbow sheen it’s very hard to clean-up. In fact, trying to remove the oil at that point can cause substantial damage by disturbing the soil system and allowing contamination of the soil.

The plan is to leave a system that contains the oil and that uses absorbent materials to capture the oil. He anticipates removing the materials in several weeks, barring no further oil contamination from the storm system.

Greenburg said they’ll know for sure if the drains are clear of oil after the first rain.

Where it began

Vladimir Moscaline, 25, is accused of one count of first-degree criminal mischief and one count of second-degree criminal mischief in connection with the spill.

According to documents from the Multnomah County District Attorney’s office, Moscaline had visited the dealership to test drive a car the day before the incident.

When Moscaline was unable to show a driver's license, employees at the dealership declined to allow his test drive.

The employees also reported Moscaline appeared to be intoxicated.

When employees declined to allow the test drive, they say he became angry.

Investigators suspect Moscaline returned at night to the dealership, where he allegedly placed a water hose into the top of a waste oil tank — the place oil goes when your oil gets changed. The water running out of the hose caused the oil tank to overflow.

Oil poured out of the vents said Ken Knudson, service manager at Gresham Dodge.

Damages are estimated at between $15,000 and $20,000.

The tank holds 650 gallons of oil but had recently been emptied. “We’re fortunate,” Knudson said. “This could have been much worse.”

The DEQ said about 80 gallons of oil spilled into the parking lot. About half of the oil went down the storm drain, but fast acting staff helped prevent much of the oil from contaminating the wetlands which feed into Fairview Creek.

Knudson said with the help of several staff members he used about 2,000 pounds of “cat litter” to soak up the oil and dam the storm drain. The substance, often used to clean up oil in garages, came in 25-pound bags from NAPA Auto Parts.

Gresham Dodge worked closely with a variety of organizations including the city, the DEQ, the NRC Environmental Services and Lovett to resolve the issue quickly.

City of Gresham employees helped with first-response efforts, absorbing oil off the top of the water in the storm drains.

Then the DEQ, along with Gresham Dodge, completed a two-part cleanup. During the first stage the storm drain was washed and vacuumed out. In the second stage, which occurred on Wednesday, Sept. 19, the drain was flushed.

Greenburg said the containment system and absorbent barriers in the wetland should be the last stages of cleanup.

“It’s just sad someone would do this,” Knudson said.

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