Earth Watch Report - Hazmat
James Holland, hydrologist/geologist with the Kanab Field Office of the United States Bureau of Land Management, examines an oil-covered rock with the Forest Service’s Joe Harris and BLM’s Sarah Schlanger in Little Valley Wash in the Upper Valley region of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
|April 01 2014 07:40 AM||Environment Pollution||USA||State of Utah, [Little Valley Wash, Grand Staircase National Monument]|
Massive oil spill discovered at Grand Staircase National Monument
Monday, 03-31-2014, 08:30 PM
Written by Michael Flynn
Hikers exploring the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument in Southern Utah last week happened upon an oil spill over four miles in length in an area known as Little Valley Wash.
The spill is thought to be old, based on the dense, asphalt-like consistency of the oil, said Larry Crutchfield, Bureau of Land Management public affairs specialist. And it’s a good thing the oil is so thick, he added, because that means the spill will stay put for a while.
“The good news is that there is no oil actively moving in the wash,” Crutchfield said. Because the oil in the wash is nearly as thick as asphalt, he added, it is not posing an immediate threat to surrounding areas. However, he said there is evidence suggesting it did move last September when massive monsoon rains created a violent flash flood in the wash.
The area typically does receive some rain in the springtime, he said, but not nearly enough to fill the part of the wash where the oil is, which is far upstream. The BLM isn’t taking any chances, however, and plans to secure the area with booms and other equipment to help protect monument resources and water sources.
James Holland, hydrologist/geologist with the Kanab Field Office of the federal Bureau of Land Management, left, points to asphalt-like patches of oil in Little Valley Wash in the Upper Valley region of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument near Escalante on Friday, April 4, 2014. Holland, along with Joe Harris of the Forest Service, Mark Bing, central regional manager of Citation Oil and Gas Corp., Terry Tolbert, wildlife biologist, and Julie Sueker of Arcadis Environmental Consulting Group, hiked the 4-mile stretch of the wash where the oil was discovered.
Laura Seitz, Deseret News
ESCALANTE, Garfield County — Remnants from at least one large oil spill found by hikers on March 23 in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument has officials wondering how and when the damage occurred.
As many as 4 miles in the Little Valley Wash now contain the aftermath of the spill, with about 1.5 miles of 6-inch thick oil flows contained in the mostly dry stream bed. Bureau of Land Management officials who manage the monument say it’s likely the leak happened decades ago.
BLM officials hypothesize that the spill became encased in sediment deposits over time, making it difficult or impossible to see in most areas. Last September, intense floods washed down the drainage, possibly unburying the oil deposit and carrying parts of it downstream for 2.5 miles.
Boulders and tree trunks in the drainage now demonstrate the depth of the initial oil flows, with steady black lines as many as 2 feet above the stream bed. Black splotches are found in other areas, with vegetation collecting the oil as it flowed along with the flood waters.
Long stretches of oil patches not mixed with sediment have liquified in regions exposed to the sun.
“It’s not what we want to see here,” associate monument manager Sarah Schlanger said during an examination of the area Friday.