VIDEO: Cleanup continues after gasoline theft leads to Longfellow Creek spill

(WSB photos/video)

The cleanup continues at Longfellow Creek, one day after gas drained into the creek after an apparently interrupted siphoning operation at a city-owned tank at the northeast end of the West Seattle Golf Course/Stadium lot. We have some new information, mostly thanks to Seattle Public Utilities, which responded to the spill because it involved their drainage system. The actual spill/siphoning site is some distance from where the creek crosses the golf course:

But as SPU explains it, like many drains all over the city, these lead to the nearest body of water – and here, that’s the creek. The area where we photographed boom work this morning is on the north side of SW Genesee, across from the golf course:

The material they’re using just soaks up the gas, not water, SPU explain. They still don’t know exactly how much fuel got into the creek, because they don’t know how much the thief or thieves got away with. We did learn a little more today about the crime itself: SPU says the 70 gallons recovered by Parks included gas left behind in various containers, suggesting the siphoning may have been interrupted.

Also, an SPU memo sent to City Councilmember Lisa Herbold‘s office, which provided it to WSB, also mentioned a truck had been stolen at the scene. Seattle Parks has yet to comment on the situation so we don’t know anything more about that. Back to the spill, cleaning it up is what SPU is focused on; spill program lead Eric Autry talked with us by the targeted tank, and we recorded the entire Q&A on video:

We haven’t reached other departments involved in this, including the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, to which SPU deferred questions about what kind of fish, and how many, the spill has killed. So many remaining questions might have to wait until after the 3-day weekend. The cleanup, however, is proceeding; as Autry mentioned in the recorded interview, the contractor is likely to be on scene at least through tomorrow. The state Department of Ecology has been on scene too:

SPU’s Autry also noted that “as environmental responders … we don’t like to see this.” Nor do the many who have long worked to restore urban greenspaces like this one – a reminder of their work was along the trail as we left the creek, blue-tagged plants awaiting placement:

Longfellow Creek ends at the Duwamish River, so this has the potential to have affected that beleaguered body of water too. We’ll continue following up.

25 Replies to "VIDEO: Cleanup continues after gasoline theft leads to Longfellow Creek spill"

  • KayK January 18, 2020 (4:31 pm)

    A great example of why we need to continue overhauling this drainage model. 

  • Chuck January 18, 2020 (5:02 pm)

    With this city’s soft enforcement on property crimes, this will only happen again (and the perps weren’t even caught!) Common sense mandates this tank be moved far away from the creek, and much better guarded. Sadly, my bet is the city just fills the damn thing up again. / On KIRO’s reporting last night they noted “dead salmon” were found. It did not say if adults or young smolts, but I imagine the former. And, I imagine this gas likely killed any salmon eggs on their redds. This is a 4 mile waterway and no small (avoidable) disaster. I hope the city does the right thing and relocates this tank. 

    • WSB January 18, 2020 (7:07 pm)

      Unless that station attributed it directly to WDFW (and if they did, it wasn’t repeated in their report this afternoon, which was based entirely on the same SPU interview as above; their reporter was standing next to me), specifics on the fish are not yet available.

    • AMD January 18, 2020 (7:46 pm)

      The tank is not next to the waterway.  Without leaving the planet, there will always be a way for ANY contaminant to end up in a waterway and launching this tank into outer space is not the city “doing the right thing”, it is a huge waste of taxpayer dollars.  If the city switched to an entirely fossil-fuel-free fleet (including landscaping tools), that would seem a more logical step toward preventing something like this in the future.  I feel like that’s more common sense than “move this tank that’s not near water further from water (but probably closer to other water) because thieves gonna thieve!”

      • John Smith January 19, 2020 (12:11 am)

        AMD wrote: “If the city switched to an entirely fossil-fuel-free fleet (including
        landscaping tools), that would seem a more logical step toward
        preventing something like this in the future.” Err… let’s consider diminishing returns: some easy examples are loaders and excavators at the transfer stations, backhoes and vactor trucks that help repair water leaks, city work crew vehicles with their onboard pumps, generators, etc. all run on diesel fuel or gasoline and there are no alternatives.

        • chemist January 19, 2020 (1:16 am)

          I have my doubts that this fuel storage tank in a parking lot with open slopes was situated compliant with industry best practices.  I’d expect a more thorough enclosure with capacity to retain most of the tank’s contents and any surface drains nearby to be designed with a retention tank about equal to the fuel tank’s full capacity.If this were a private business, that’s the sort of design I’d expect to be required by building  codes and possibly required following this incident.

    • Aaron January 20, 2020 (8:56 am)

      Unfortunately almost ALL surface water and pollution in the Delridge basin goes into Longfellow creek. Roxbury north to the Duwamish, 35th ridge line to the West, and Pigeon Ridge to the east. With the exception of a few square blocks around Delridge and Brandon, everything that touches the ground ends up in the beleaguered and polluted creek.

  • Mj January 18, 2020 (5:56 pm)

    The vandals need to be caught and held accountable.  

  • Mj January 18, 2020 (7:32 pm)

    Chuck it’s a concrete enclosed storage tank that looks very sturdy to me in the photograph.  At issue is the vandals, not the tank that looks to be built to withstand an earthquake.

  • Sixbuck January 18, 2020 (7:55 pm)

    Let’s call the perpetrators what they are…thieves. 

  • mok4315 January 18, 2020 (10:35 pm)

    Spill prevention and cleanup is what I do for a living. When he says it’s difficult to recover gas in water, it’s an understatement. It’s nearly impossible. Most of that gas evaporated before people even knew there was a spill and that sausage boom will likely only have trace amounts. The rest made it out into Puget Sound, and dispersed into the water column. What they put out was for appearances, and honestly I’m surprised they even tried. It’s not advisable to boom off gasoline. You’re just making a floating bomb. Unfortunately, this happens every day. A day off from work is a rare thing. 

  • Dl January 18, 2020 (11:29 pm)

    I wonder if the thieves understand how destructive this was to the local environment?

    • Anne January 19, 2020 (7:23 am)

       Thieves-vandals don’t care one whit. 

  • steve January 19, 2020 (8:37 am)

    why is there a fuel tank there? Can’t they just go to a gas station like everyone else? Justt wondering about the necessity.

    • Anne January 19, 2020 (2:16 pm)

      You are kidding -right? 

    • Dan January 19, 2020 (4:21 pm)

      There are a lot of parks trucks that fuel up there, but also maintenance vehicles for the golf course (tractors and the like), and dozens of golf carts.

  • Joan January 19, 2020 (11:36 am)

    This is disastrous for all who are working to restore salmon runs in Longfellow Creek! That gas tank should be surrounded by tall fencing, barbed wire and anything else that can keep thugs out. How about security cameras? Lessons learned!

  • Scott January 19, 2020 (1:20 pm)

    All good points here.  Can we collect data on the chemical fertilizers, nitrogen, etc., pesticides and weed killers used on this golf course?  Thank you.  

    • Tina January 19, 2020 (4:10 pm)

      I don’t know if YOU can ask, but the WSDA requires all licensed pesticide applicators to keep records for 7 years. don’t know if its required to keep fertilizer records.  But the lawn isn’t staying green all buy itself, I can assume.  And is there actually such thing as organic fertilizer?  That is opening up another can of worms.

  • lookingforlogic January 19, 2020 (8:53 pm)

    Blah blah blah,  whine and complain after the next disaster.

  • Stephanie January 20, 2020 (8:57 am)

    Poor placement for a refueling tank.

  • K to the F January 20, 2020 (10:53 am)

    Not sure exactly how the creek was effected as the tank is a couple
    hundred yards at least 400 yards from the creek proper. So either this
    was a long, slow leak or the theifs dumped their contraband after the
    theft — guessing they didn’t know it was diesel when they likely need
    regular. Tank definitely needs better security now but the creek likely
    wasn’t directly effected by a leak from the tank itself.

    • WSB January 20, 2020 (11:38 am)

      The gas went into the drain that goes into the creek. The thieves were siphoning, per SPU, and at least per the information provided thus far – which, as I’ve written, is absent some answers because Parks, whose facility this is, hasn’t yet spoken – the siphoning was apparently interrupted or otherwise aborted, with the mention of containers left behind. Was a hole drilled? Cap left off? Hoping to find that out tomorrow when all relevant agencies reopen.

      • K to the F January 20, 2020 (2:26 pm)

        Aha, missed the drain part. Yuck. Thanks for keeping us informed!

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