Cleanup efforts are underway after an oil spill in Tumwater

VIDEO: Cleanup efforts underway after oil spill in Tumwater

Cleanup efforts are underway after an oil spill in Tumwater. It's the latest round of trouble for the property owners of the old Olympia Brewing Company.

The city says the oil comes from a damaged transformer, caused by someone stealing copper wire. The responsibility for the cleanup is falling on property owners, Tumwater Developers LLC , because Washington state law requires whoever owns the oil to clean up any spills.

On Wednesday, cleanup crews in hazmat suits worked in Tumwater Falls Park, wiping oil from rocks and soaking up oil from puddles along the Deschutes River.

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“It just flowed over onto the sidewalks, down a couple of hundred feet into a storm drain, and down the bank into the park,” said Ron Holcomb with the Washington Department of Ecology, which is overseeing the cleanup.

The oil is coming from a transformer on the property, close to Custer Way SW and Boston Street.

“This was done with some illegal activity with someone breaking into this transformer likely trying to steal copper,” Holcomb said.

Holcomb said the transformer holds 677 gallons, though he didn’t know how full it was or how much spilled out.

“Any amount of oil that gets into the environment is not good,” Holcomb said.

Because of the age of the transformer, Holcomb said they believe the oil likely contains PCBs – chemicals particularly dangerous for animals .

“It’s a chemical that’s bioaccumulated into fish and other organisms,” Holcomb said. “It's very persistent in the environment,” he said.

This is just the latest trouble for Tumwater Developers.

The city said there have been three small fires on the property in just the last month. Plus there was a massive there in October.

The city’s administrator said the property has been plagued by nuisance trouble.

“Also, they have problems with graffiti and broken windows and things like that, which actually sort of compound. One broken window leads to more broken windows,” said John Doan, Tumwater’s city administrator.

Doan said the developer violated city codes by not securing and keeping the property safe - and has racked up big fines.

“They owe about $78,000,” Doan said. “Some related to the building code, some are about securing the property so people couldn’t get in, some of them related to fire sprinkler and fire suppression system, he said.

But he said now the property owners have agreed to make major changes to secure the area, and signed an agreement on Feb. 20.

“They’ve got a lot of work to do,” Doan said.

The city said it wants to work with Tumwater Developers not just on fixing the nuisance problem, but to redevelop the 1 million-square-foot vacant property into something that can be a source of pride for the city again.

“This has been a vacant piece of property for a long time in the middle of community. And the city’s desire is to have the property move forward in a positive way towards redevelopment,” Doan said.

“Options are residential or hotel, conference space or meeting space, certainly brewers or distillers, some amount of retail, hospitality, all of those would be great uses,” he said.

As for the oil spill cleanup, the Department of Ecology said the work could continue for days longer. Any plants that touched the oil will need to be removed, oil soaked up, and any soil contaminated will need to be dug up and removed.

“Oil spill cleanups are costly,” Holcomb said. “The property owner representative has triggered the cleanup and at this point we’re satisfied with the level of effort and we expect it to continue until it’s completed,” he said.