Cleanup resumes in oil-tainted Walker River |

Cleanup resumes in oil-tainted Walker River

BRIDGEPORT, Calif. – Cleanup crews are back at work in the east fork of the Walker River where thousands of gallons of crude oil spilled two months ago.

Work was suspended in mid-January when the weather became too dangerous in the mountainous canyon.

”We intended to maintain the full-scale operation until the cleanup was completed,” Scott Schaefer, acting administrator of California’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response, told a Reno newspaper.

”However, after two cleanup workers fell through the ice and into the river, we were forced to scale back the cleanup operations due to safety concerns until the weather improved.”

While temperatures remain below normal, they are mild enough for workers to return to the river, said Dana Michaels, California Department of Fish and Game spokeswoman.

By Wednesday, the California Department of Fish and Game hopes to have about 44 workers scraping, sponging and vacuuming oil from the frigid riverbed, Michaels said.

The spill happened Dec. 30 when a tanker truck carrying heating oil overturned along California 182, killing the 23-year-old driver and leaking about 3,600 gallons of oil into the trout-fishing waterway.

Immediate cleanup efforts didn’t stop the sticky mess from creeping seven miles downstream to Nevada, where Lyon County ranchers rely on the trickle of water as a water source for livestock.

Cleanup could take weeks if the weather cooperates, and even then all of the oil won’t be recovered, officials said.

”Oil spill cleanup is always difficult,” Schaefer said. ”We have already recovered 45 percent of the spilled fuel oil. This is a much higher rate than is typically recovered. The final recovery rate will be even higher.”

Michaels added that a 100 percent recovery rate is not possible.

As of Sunday, the spill has killed three birds, four beavers and 23 fish, mostly trout.

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