Corps reports second Columbia River oil leak, from 2,160-MW John Day Dam

Maintenance technicians at the 2,160-MW John Day Dam hydro project have estimated 63 gallons of oil spilled into the Columbia River from a pinhole leak in a turbine guide bearing chiller, which was discovered on Dec. 7.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Portland District discovered the leak near the downstream side of the dam. Corps staff isolated the system, began identifying the exact number of gallons lost and started fixing the issue.

“Daily, weekly and monthly inspections are a critical way for us to swiftly identify and respond to oil spills,” said Dwane Watsek, operations division chief. “The team’s attention to detail during one of these inspections led to the discovery of the pinhole leak. The unit will remain out of service and isolated from the river until technicians assess and repair it.”

Corps officials notified partner agencies, including the National Response Center, Oregon and Washington emergency management offices and Columbia River Intertribal Fish Commission.

This is the second spill at Corps dams on the Columbia River this month, at the 1,780-MW The Dalles Dam hydro project. On Dec. 3, 45 gallons of oil was spilled into the river. Corps technicians originally estimated the impacted turbine could have lost up to 200 gallons, but they confirmed the lesser amount on Dec. 11.

The Corps’ mission is to deliver vital public and military engineering services; partnering in peace and war to strengthen U.S. security, energize the economy and reduce risks from disasters.

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