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Parleys Canyon oil leak shouldn't hurt Salt Lake City's water

Published May 1, 2014 11:21 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A truck crash in Parleys Canyon led to a large oil spill and snarled traffic Wednesday.

A box truck carrying paper supplies ran into the back of a semi truck carrying barrels of crude oil just before 6 a.m. in the westbound lanes near milepost 137, according to Utah Highway Patrol Trooper Mike Funk. He said the crash caused the trailer to tip over and spill 105 barrels of crude oil on the road.

Oil had spread about 20 feet into the headwaters of Parleys Creek, which runs beside Interstate 80, but it was congealing when it hit the cold water, Funk said. He felt confident it could be cleaned up safely.

Authorities from the Salt Lake County Health Department and the Salt Lake City Department of Public Utilities agreed.

A dirt berm had been dug to slow the flow of water and absorbent booms were put up to soak up the waxy crude oil, which could be smelled strongly from I-80. Salt Lake City also shut water intakes to prevent any leaked oil from reaching water supplies. The city sampled streams, storm drains and reservoirs, but found no evidence of contamination, according to a news release.

"The oil is very well contained," said Jeff Niermeyer, director of the department of public utilities.

While Parleys Creek does provide 7 percent to 10 percent of Salt Lake City's drinking water each year, Niermeyer said the spill won't affect the city's water supply because the oil should be able to be removed before it hits Little Dell and Mountain Dell reservoirs.

Teresa Gray, bureau manager of water quality and hazardous waste for the Salt Lake County Health Department, said about a fourth to a third of the oil in the 105 barrels made it down to the creek. She estimated the oil in one or two barrels — which each hold about 50 gallons of crude — actually spilled into the water.

The exact amount of oil in the water won't be known until it is all removed; the cleanup is estimated to be complete on Thursday.

A private disaster cleanup company was contracted to contain and remove the oil.

Two men were taken to a hospital with minor injuries, according to Funk.

Delays in the area continued until the early afternoon.

jmiller@sltrib.com

Twitter: @jm_miller

pmanson@sltrib.com

Twitter: @PamelaMansonSLC