Salt Lake oil spill may have reached Davis County

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FARMINGTON -- Davis County says oil from the spill may have made its way to Farmington Bay.

Utah health officials say this is a big development, because the water in Farmington Bay eventually goes to the Great Salt Lake. However, Chevron maintains they've stopped the oil at 600 North along the Jordan River.

Fish and Wildlife Service testing Davis County waters

The only way to determine whether the oil reached the Davis County waters is to test it. Tuesday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service did just that, taking samples at four points along the possible oil path. The furthest point was a state canal close to Farmington Bay.

CLICK to enlarge map of the 18 clean-up zones as designated by Chevron.
CLICK to enlarge map of the 18 clean-up zones as designated by Chevron.

"This is part of the response, which is the part of understanding how far the affected area is," explained Fish and Wildlife biologist Chris Cline.

The Davis County Health Department believes the oil has come as far as the Farmington Bay wetlands.

"[There's] very, very little. I would say trace amounts would describe it the best way. You can still see the sheen, and that's why we came out here and put the booms out," said Dave Spence, environmental health director for the Davis County Health Department.

Davis County has set up booms in several spots along the river, and workers have switched them out several times. The big concern is Farmington Bay feeds directly into the Great Salt Lake. It's also the home of some delicate types of wildlife, including herons and pelicans.

Chevron, however, maintains that no oil has gone past 600 North on the Jordan River.

"I think we've done an excellent job collecting the water, and the reports that we have is that the oil has not migrated that far," said Dan Johnson, manager of state and government affairs for Chevron.

Cline says his tests will determine once and for all just how far the oil spill traveled.

"What the data says, and what the information says, will kind of trump what somebody thinks at the end of the day," Cline said.

She is remaining objective, but even her expert eye cannot tell if the dark mud against the boom is oil.

"I can't look at this and say, ‘Oh yes, this has been oiled,'" Cline said. "It doesn't look obviously oiled."

Cleanup efforts
As of Monday, June 14...
  • 112 total responders in place at locations from Red Butte Creek extending to the Jordan River
  • 9,100 ft of boom have been placed
  • 7 vacuum trucks and various other spill response equipment deployed
- Chevron

Only the tests will tell.

For its part, the Utah Division of Water Quality says its initial tests along the oil spill show no immediate threat to human health or aquatic life.

River closure, health advisory issued

Meanwhile, Salt Lake County government officials closed the Jordan River to the public Tuesday night, saying it will remain closed while cleanup from the Chevron oil spill continues.

Salt Lake City government officials, who requested the closure, made the announcement Tuesday evening. In a press release, city officials said the river will be closed between 1700 South to 500 North.

"We are appreciative of the County's collaboration in closing the Jordan River for public use as Chevron's oil collection work continues," Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker said. "We take seriously our commitment to residents of Salt Lake City to see that our City's unique riparian corridor is restored to its original state."

Also Tuesday evening, the Salt Lake Valley Health Department issued a health order limiting public access to Red Butte Creek, from 2300 East to 600 East, and the Jordan River, from 1300 South to 500 South.

The health department said oil contamination of the water could cause people nearby to have headaches, nausea or dizziness. If you do experience any of these systems, you should see a doctor.

The health order specifically states no boating, swimming, fishing, wading or other activities that bring a person in contact with the water are be allowed.


Story compiled with contributions from Nicole Gonzales, Jennifer Stagg and Marc Giaque.


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