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Fuel spilled close to Eugene drinking water source: 'Our community had a close call'

A tanker truck hauling 11,000 gallons of fuel crashed Tuesday morning, closing Highway 126 east of Leaburg, Oregon State Police said. (SBG)

LEABURG, Ore. - Crews have removed 500 tons of soil from the scene of a tanker truck crash that spilled 1,700 gallons of gasoline about a quarter mile from the sole source of drinking water for 200,000 people in Eugene and the surrounding areas.

The tanker truck hauling 11,000 gallons of fuel crashed Tuesday a mile east of Leaburg on Highway 126.

The Oregon DEQ estimates 1,700 gallons leaked from the tanker.

Crews pumped groundwater out of the affected area Thursday. Soil and water sample test results could be back as soon as Friday.

The Oregon DOT expects the work to keep one lane of Hwy 126 closed through the end of the week.

Beyond the inconvenience to travelers, the Eugene Water & Electric Board notes the spill happened just 1,500 feet from the McKenzie River.

The river provides drinking water for EWEB customers.

"The McKenzie also provides critical habitat for a number of endangered or threatened species including spring Chinook salmon, bull trout, spotted owl, Oregon chub, osprey and western pond turtle," EWEB said in a statement. "Fortunately, the spilled fuel did not enter into any tributaries of the McKenzie River, or the river itself. There was no surface water connecting the crash site to the waterways."

The number of vehicles hauling hazardous materials on Hwy 126 highlights the need for rapid emergency response and upgrades to EWEB's drinking water system, the utility says.

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