Crews Clean-Up Illinois Oil Spill

65,000 gallons of oil sludge spills in river near Chicago

Monday, Feb 9, 2009  |  Updated 4:48 PM EDT
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Joliet Oil Spill

Joliet Oil Spill

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Sludge in Des Plaines River

An expert talks about the possible affects of a 65,000 gallon spill in the Des Plaines River.
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ROCKDALE, Ill. —   An Environmental Protection Agency spokesman said environmental impact is minimal after a 65,000-gallon oil waste spill in southwest suburban Chicago.

EPA spokesman Jim Mitchell said crews have made progress with overnight cleanup efforts on land and have contained areas where the oil waste seeped into water.

Officials said they expect the cleanup to take another two or three days.

Authorities said a holding tank at a Caterpillar facility near Joliet broke open early Sunday morning, spilling about 65,000 gallons of oil sludge and contaminating a 3-mile section of the Des Plaines River.

The substance was reported Monday to be hydraulic and cutting oil.

The EPA said humans aren't at risk and there hasn't been evidence of a fish kill or harm to water fowl.

"It is being contained, and there is no evidence of a fish kill or harm to water fowl," Maggie Carson, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Emergency Management Agency, said in an e-mail to The Associated Press Sunday.

Most of the sludge spilled on land, but 6,000 gallons seeped into Des Plaines River water, U.S. Coast Guard petty officer William Mitchell said. He reiterated that the waste poses no risk to human health.

But "if there's an animal in that 3-mile area, they definitely could be in trouble," Mitchell said. The Coast Guard also said barge and boat traffic along the river had been stopped.

Peoria-based Caterpillar says it immediately notified authorities about the spill and has hired a contractor for cleanup efforts.

State and federal EPA response teams, as well as teams from Caterpillar were working with local organizations to clean the area, Carson said. She said the focus on Sunday was containment and there was no estimate on how long it would take to clean the area.

The U.S. Coast Guard is surrounding the contaminated water with a floating wall, Mitchell said. He said that two vacuum trucks on the scene would suck up the sludge.

The Joliet Police Department said it hadn't order any evacuations in the area and that it wasn't aware of any ordered by other law enforcement agencies.

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