Clean up of an oil spill is still underway nine days after a transformer exploded causing nearly 16,000 gallons of mineral oil to spill into Massard Creek. OG&E crews remain focused on containing and recovering the substance following the spill on June 1.
Authorities say the spill began at a utility substation on Cavanaugh Road in Fort Smith. Oil leaked into Massard Creek but did not reach the Poteau or Arkansas Rivers.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, crews are diverting the oil to several recovery locations. Rob Ratley, Communications Affairs Manager for OG&E, said 40 crew members have been working to clean up the substance.
Crew are using containment booms to prevent the oil from spreading further downstream. Absorbent booms and pads collect the oil and vacuum trucks and water skimmers remove the oil from the surface of the water.
Ratley estimates about 11,000 gallons of oil have been collected so far.
According to Ratley, the substance is commonly used in the electric industry. He says it's highly refined and poses low risks, but people should still be cautious.
"Even though it is a version of mineral oil, it's important people don't come in contact with it, or ingest it, or breathe it," he said.
Ratley said if a person is exposed to the mineral oil, it could cause skin irritations and nausea. In the event this should occur, the EPA recommends individuals contact their health care provider.
EPA has found no evidence of impact to any residential properties. The cause of the leak and the amount of oil leaked is still under investigation.
Once the oil is cleaned, Ratley says OG&E will go into a maintenance phase, and they'll leave booms in place for safe measure.
"We're committed to cleaning it up thoroughly, so there's really not an end date as far as our clean up," said Ratley. "We are very pleased with the progress that we are making, and we will be curtailing some of the personnel as we advance further."