Crews contain oil spill in Oklahoma River

Heavy rain washed oil mixed with salt water into streams that empty into the Oklahoma River, but most of the mess was contained before reaching the Boathouse District.
by William Crum Published: August 30, 2013
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Cleanup crews corralled oil that spilled into the Oklahoma River before most of the slick, sticky fluid could find its way to the Boathouse District.

An estimated 385 barrels, or 16,940 gallons, of oil and saltwater spilled into Mustang Creek, near SW 15 and Morgan Road, after lightning struck a tank battery Aug. 12.

Heavy rain the next morning overwhelmed containment materials put in place by firefighters, said Paul Bronson, Oklahoma City's assistant public works director.

Maintenance crews saw oil in the Oklahoma River the next morning “and they said, ‘Oh, boy,'” Bronson said.

Oil that washed downstream was trapped in the lock at the May Avenue dam and by containment booms at a railroad trestle just downstream.

“I'm fairly certain that we got 90 to 95 percent of it,” Bronson said.

The city will seek reimbursement from the well operator for an estimated $6,000 to $6,500 in cleanup costs, he said.

Lightning hit a “gun barrel” — which separates water and oil — at a saltwater disposal well around 10 or 10:15 p.m. on Aug. 12, Bronson said.

He said the piece of equipment was blown outside the containment dike.

The installation, consisting of what appears to be 10 tanks and other equipment, is visible in a Google Maps satellite view adjacent to the SW 15 bridge over Mustang Creek.

An aerial photo taken Aug. 14 shows an oil sheen on the Oklahoma River west of Western Avenue.

Bronson said the Oklahoma Corporation Commission oversaw the spill response. Some containment booms still are deployed to catch oil-coated debris, he said.

by William Crum
Reporter
OU and Norman High School graduate, formerly worked as a reporter and editor for the Associated Press, the Star Tribune in Minneapolis, and the Norman Transcript. Married, two children, lives in Norman.
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