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Foam in McNulty Creek caused by firefighting training exercise

Cause of runoff into creek still being investigated


A sudsy, white foam seen billowing on the banks of McNulty Creek in the afternoon of Sunday, Nov. 15, is believed to be runoff from a fire engine training exercise.

Officers from the Department of Public Safety Standards and Training were conducting safety trainings at a site that CRFR has near the creek off McNulty Way, according to Columbia River Fire and Rescue Fire Chief Jay Tappan.

DPSST officers were working with a product called "aqueous film-forming foam," or AFFF, that is used to put out oil-based fires during a training exercise on Sunday afternoon. The officers were using a CRFR engine that contains a water reservoir and foam reservoir to conduct the training, although no CRFR personnel were involved.

Tappan said groups have conducted similar trainings at that location before and have never had foam wash into the creek. Tappan said he is looking into the cause, which could have been weather- or drainage-related.

St. Helens Police Department patrol officer Brent Thompson responded to the call alongside CRFR on Old Portland Road, near Helvetia Road, at 5:17 p.m. From the road, the foam looked like a mountain of bubbles, Thompson said. The individual who called the police department reported that the “creek was full of suds.”

The foam has a very low toxicity level, Tappan said. While the foam may have looked bad, he said, there is no danger to the creek's ecology. Tappan said he spoke with officials from the U.S. Coast Guard and Oregon Department of Environemental Quality, and said they are not concerned with potential harmful effects caused by the foam.

By Monday afternoon, the foam had dissipated.

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