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

Emily Schwing
Northwest News Network
June's train derailment n the Columbia River Gorge damaged Mosier's waste water treatment plant and sewer lines.

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.