News Releases

John Day Dam Oil Leak Spills into Columbia River

Corps of Engineers, Portland Distict
Published Dec. 11, 2020

Maintenance technicians at John Day Dam estimated 63 gallons of oil spilled into the Columbia River from a pinhole leak in a turbine guide bearing chiller discovered on Monday, Dec. 7.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Portland District (Corps) 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. The Corps is dedicated to rapid spill responses.  

“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 National Response Center, Oregon and Washington emergency management offices and the Columbia River Intertribal Fish Commission.

This is the second spill at Corps dams on the Columbia River this month. The Dalles Dam spilled 45 gallons of oil into the river, Dec. 3. Corps technicians originally estimated the impacted turbine could have lost up to 200 gallons; however, they confirmed the lesser amount Dec. 11.  

John L. Morgan

Release no. 20-149

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