Dunsmuir Historical Oil – Update #5

Dec. 8, 2022

Excavation work continues along the Upper Sacramento River at the Dunsmuir Railyard, where a Unified Command of state and federal agencies (including OSPR and Union Pacific Railroad), is overseeing cleanup and restoration efforts that stem from historic petroleum seepage. 

Crews have continued excavation directly behind a retaining wall along the river, removing soil to a depth of 10 feet. Officials are mitigating potential runoff from incoming storms by covering the soil and taking other precautions.

Excavated material is being loaded onto trucks that transport the material offsite to an appropriate waste disposal site. Construction of a stockpile area in the south railyard has been completed and trucking of excavated material to the stockpile area will begin this month. A de-watering system has been constructed in the north railyard in preparation of shoreline excavation planned for next year.

Truck traffic through the City of Dunsmuir increased with the onset of excavation work to remove contaminated soil and to deliver clean fill. Signs are posted along the trucking routes and placed along the streets notifying times and dates of increased truck traffic and no parking zones as needed.

Dunsmuir Historical Oil – Update #4

UPDATE on the Dunsmuir Historical Oil response: Excavation work started along the Upper Sacramento River at the Dunsmuir Railyard, where a Unified Command of state and federal agencies (including OSPR and Union Pacific Railroad), is overseeing cleanup and restoration efforts that stem from historic petroleum seepage. 

Crews began excavating activities last week, removing soil to a depth of 10 ft. directly behind the retaining wall along the Sacramento River. Officials are mitigating potential runoff from incoming storms by covering the soil and taking other precautions.

Excavated material is being loaded onto trucks that transport the material offsite to an appropriate waste disposal site. Construction of a stockpile area in the south railyard is nearing completion and trucking of excavated material to the stockpile area will begin as needed.

Truck traffic through the City of Dunsmuir increased with the onset of excavation work to remove contaminated soil and to deliver clean fill. Signs are posted along the trucking routes and placed along the streets notifying times and dates of increased truck traffic and no parking zones as needed.

Dunsmuir Historical Oil – Update #3

Oct. 14, 2022

UPDATE on the Dunsmuir Historical Oil response: Excavation work is set to begin next week along the Upper Sacramento River at the Dunsmuir Railyard, where a Unified Command of state and federal agencies (including OSPR), is overseeing cleanup and restoration efforts that stem from historic petroleum seepage. 

Contractors will load excavated material onto trucks and will transport the material offsite to an appropriate waste disposal site. Construction of a stockpile area in the south railyard will be completed, and trucking of excavated material will begin as needed.

Truck traffic through the City of Dunsmuir will increase with the onset of excavation work to remove contaminated soil and to deliver clean fill. Signage along the trucking routes will be placed along the streets notifying times and dates of increased truck traffic and any no parking zones as needed.

Dunsmuir Historical Oil – Update #2

June 29, 2022

A Unified Command of federal and state agencies, and Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR) continues to oversee cleanup and restoration at the Dunsmuir railyard, where historic petroleum seepage has impacted soil, groundwater, and the Upper Sacramento River.

Construction operations recently resumed following a winter hiatus and are expected to continue during the warmer months through 2023. So far this year, in addition to routine in-river boom maintenance and inspections, contractors have begun drilling and collecting soil samples as well as abandoning wells that lie within the footprint of planned excavations.

Planned work for the remainder of the project includes:

-Removal of riverfront retaining walls and the adjacent walkway -Excavation of oil-impacted soil along 1,000 feet of shoreline -Riverbank restoration along the shoreline to increase river capacity and create additional habitat for birds and fish.

CDFW-OSPR has monitored the waterway since 2018 and has not observed any impacts to wildlife. Additionally, the state Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) assessed the river (as recently as May 2022), and recommended the fishery remain open after concluding the situation did not reach the threshold of being a threat to public health.

(Scroll down for prior updates and background information on the response)

Dunsmuir Historical Oil – Update #1

Oct. 1, 2021

A unified command continues to oversee operations for removing contaminated soil from historical fuel tanks at the Dunsmuir Railyard.

Fuel from the tanks had been seeping into the Upper Sacramento River since the early 1900s and the current plan is geared toward removing the threat of further seepage. To date, there has been no observed impacts to wildlife and no threat to public health.

This week’s operations have included the use of an excavator to remove oiled sediment from the river bottom and to place a layer of absorbent material on the river bottom, secured by mesh bags of rocks to prevent oil and sheen in the river. This week’s operations have also included installation of rock-filled dams to isolate water flow and to prepare for further in-river soil excavation.

A contractor on the project has also been periodically replacing absorbent materials in the area that have collected fuel from the surface.

CDFW-OSPR crews have been on-scene daily to monitor for wildlife impacts.

Agencies, Union Pacific Railroad to launch cleanup work to remove historic oil contamination

United States Environmental Protection Agency
California Department of Fish and Wildlife – Office of Spill Prevention and Response
California Regional Water Quality Control Board

Sept. 8, 2021

DUNSMUIR, Calif. – A unified command that includes state and federal agencies and Union Pacific Railroad will begin cleanup next week to remove contaminated soil from historic fuel tanks, which were first used to fuel locomotives in the early 1900s.

At the turn of the last century, the Dunsmuir facility (then operated by the Southern Pacific Transportation Company), was equipped with a steel tank with a capacity of 2.1 million gallons. The tank at that time held Bunker C fuel to power steam locomotives before it was replaced by a 200,000-gallon diesel tank in 1955.
Unknown amounts of both fuels have seeped into the soil, groundwater and the Upper Sacramento River, since the early 1900s.

Many attempts have been made over the last century to stop contamination into the river. Initial efforts in the early 1920s included construction of a 700-foot retaining wall and oil sump. In the decades that followed, more retaining walls, a skimmer system, and intercept trenches were built, as well as groundwater extraction and treatment systems, monitoring wells, and oil collection wells.

The property was purchased from Southern Pacific by Union Pacific Railroad in 1996. In the years that followed, Union Pacific Railroad transitioned away from fuel storage and fueling operations at the site. By 2003, most of these activities had ceased.

Current response activities stem from a citizen report of oil along the riverbank near the facility in 2018. As a result, a coalition of agencies including California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response (CDFW-OSPR), and Siskiyou County Environmental Health was formed following the 2018 report. Union Pacific Railroad’s recent response actions included the installation of containment booms in the river and a barrier where the seeps were observed.

The coalition then transitioned to a unified command to develop a comprehensive plan for cleanup work. The unified command includes the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), CDFW-OSPR, California Regional Water Quality Control Board, and Union Pacific Railroad. The California Regional Water Quality Control Board issued a Cleanup and Abatement Order to address site-wide contamination and discharge. Additionally, the EPA issued a Clean Water Act (CWA) Order to Union Pacific Railroad requiring response actions to remove the discharge or to mitigate or prevent the substantial threat of a discharge of oil.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response (CDFW-OSPR) has monitored the waterway and has not observed impacts to wildlife. Additionally, the state Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) assessed the river and recommended that the fishery remain open, after concluding that the situation did not reach the threshold of being a threat to public health.

Union Pacific Railroad is covering all costs associated with the cleanup. Operations led by the Unified Command will address the immediate discharge to the Upper Sacramento River, and cleanup activities for additional contamination are being overseen by the California Regional Water Quality Control Board.
Members of the public are strongly encouraged to avoid the area during cleanup operations, as there will be containment booms and other apparatus in place.