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Oregon, Union Pacific Use Microbes To Clean Up Oil Train Spill

In the wake of Friday's derailment, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown called for a temporary moratorium on oil train traffic in the Columbia Gorge.
Emily Schwing
/
Northwest News Network
In the wake of Friday's derailment, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown called for a temporary moratorium on oil train traffic in the Columbia Gorge.

Oil that spilled from a derailed train in the Columbia River Gorge in June contaminated nearby groundwater. Starting in the next week, Union Pacific Railroad will be working with Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality to clean it up.

Crews are installing a treatment system that aims to speed up an already naturally occurring process, where microbes that exist in the soil consume the oil. It’s called bio-sparging.

DEQ Project Manager Bob Schwarz said a series of underground wells will be connected to an air compressor.

“This additional oxygen will cause the population of microbes to expand very quickly,” Schwarz said, “so the more microbes, the more quickly the oil gets consumed.”

Schwarz said Mosier area residents should not be concerned about city water contamination, because that water is sourced from a different well that was not affected.

The groundwater treatment system will likely operate for the next year.

Copyright 2021 Northwest News Network. To see more, visit Northwest News Network.

Emily Schwing
Emily Schwing comes to the Inland Northwest by way of Alaska, where she covered social and environmental issues with an Arctic spin as well as natural resource development, wildlife management and Alaska Native issues for nearly a decade. Her work has been heard on National Public Radio’s programs like “Morning Edition” and “All things Considered.” She has also filed for Public Radio International’s “The World,” American Public Media’s “Marketplace,” and various programs produced by the BBC and the CBC. She has also filed stories for Scientific American, Al Jazeera America and Arctic Deeply.