Hose malfunction causes oil spill at Kirkland's Kamiakin Middle School

Workers clean up an oil spill at Kamiakin Middle School that occurred Dec. 4. Department of Ecology officials say the incident is still under investigation.  - RAECHEL DAWSON/KIRKLAND REPORTER
Workers clean up an oil spill at Kamiakin Middle School that occurred Dec. 4. Department of Ecology officials say the incident is still under investigation.

When a neighbor of the Kamiakin Middle School noticed strings hanging down into storm drains and smelled “something chemically” as she stood over vaults on Northeast 140th St., she decided to investigate.

Turns out Kamiakin Middle School had an oil spill Dec. 4 and the strings were attached to filters. Crews are still working to clean the area nearly three weeks after, but are nearly done.

The woman, who wishes to remain unidentified, said her neighbor spoke to a custodian who said school officials weren’t telling them “anything.”

But Kathryn Reith, spokeswoman for the Lake Washington School District, said environmental cleanup contractors have completely rid the water of oil and workers are in the process of testing the soil to determine how much was contaminated. Reith said they’re finding very little oil.

Cleanup started almost immediately after workers noticed a fuel tank that connects to the middle school’s emergency generator was “lower than it should have been,” said Reith.

“Both the Department of Ecology and Kirkland were complementary in immediate clean up,” Reith said. “This is not a huge spill. It was a small spill and every bit needs to be dealt with but it was not huge.”

Larry Altose, spokesman for the DOE said based on the latest calculations from fuel deliveries, tank soundings and generator motor tests, it appears 245 to 255 gallons of oil were released.

Reith said workers periodically start up the generator to make sure it’s running correctly, which is when they discovered the hose that connects to the fuel tank had malfunctioned.

A call was put in to the school’s environmental consultant who then notified the DOE. The DOE then filed a report and alerted the City of Kirkland and they immediately launched into a clean up plan, which was approved.

A catch basin at the opening of the tank captured a lot of the oil, but Reith said the hose’s failure was closer to the ground surface. She said some oil had gone under a concrete slab. Oil also ended up in the storm water system and the storm water retention pond. The pond was cleaned up by Dec. 5 and a charcoal filtration system was implemented on Dec. 6.

There is still a spill investigation underway, Altose said, and the entire impact on the environment or the community has not been determined.

The school district is expected to submit an initial investigation report to the DOE’s toxic site cleanup program by the first week of March.

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