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Cleanup complete after 'petroleum product' found in Payette Lake

 A sandy beach area and the Payette Lake. There is a blue, red and white sign with the word "notice" on it and yellow caution tape.
City of McCall

All beaches in McCall have reopened following the appearance Memorial Day weekend of a ‘petroleum product’ on Payette Lake.

City officials credited local water manager Sabrina Sims for quickly shutting off the inlet for McCall’s drinking water supply from that part of the lake when the substance was discovered.

“She said that the odor was very, very bad and that the whole situation looked bad and basically immediately shut down that surface water intake,” said Idaho Department of Environmental Quality Regional Administrator Aaron Scheff.

The city switched to its other intake about a mile away and tested to ensure drinking water remained safe as the spill was cleaned up.

The fire department established a temporary log boom to control the spread, but Art Roberts, Legacy Park and Brown Park were all closed for nearly a week. Fire officials estimated the amount of the spill at as much as 10 gallons.

The city council approved a cleanup contract with Olympus Technical Services for up to $100,000, but the exact cost of the cleanup isn’t yet known. The EPA and the Idaho DEQ supervised the cleanup process, which was completed June 6, according to McCall spokeswoman Erin Greaves. Water tests showed no detectable levels of contamination.

“BTEX: toluene, ethylbenzene, xylene, the aromatic compounds that you smell when you get your gas, those are the types of things that are being tested for,” Scheff told Boise State Public Radio’s Morning Edition.

Testing is done at specific EPA-approved labs and delays are to be expected due to the busy this time of year, Scheff said. Labs also aren’t typically always set up to test water for volatile organic compounds found in fuel because the two substances are rarely stored in proximity to each other.

The specific substance spilled isn’t yet known, though the Environmental Protection Agency is expected to issue a final report in the coming weeks.

It’s unlikely the source of the spill will be discovered, but Greaves said it was not a leak; the substance entered the storm system somehow.

Troy Oppie is a reporter and local host of 'All Things Considered' for Boise State Public Radio News.

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