Cont. Disaster Page 3
•DISASTER (Continued from Page 1) The leak came Just as the first cloud of chemical was leaving the Russian River water system through Jenner and dissipating in the ocean. Formaldehyde concentration concentration in the river, which had dropped to acceptable levels, shot back up to 10 times the federal health standards at Talmage, and in Hopland, and four times the maximum allowed. But Dickens, the official spokesman for spill control teams, said the threat posed by heavy rainfall carrying what's left of the contaminants over the dam is the most serious yet. Rain and snow are predicted through tomorrow. Officials trapped most of the 50 percent formaldehyde solution spilled from the car behind the dam. Though in excess of one million gallons of formaldehyde- laced water has been pumped out from behind the dam, the small leak from the weak embankment was enough to shoot river levels into into the danger zone. A major flood over the dam could carry the heaviest concentration of toxins • yet into the Russian. "We already think we're going to lose some of our diversion dams" designed to., block off other drainage ditches from Doolin Creek, Dickens said. "I don't think we're going to be able to hold it." The first lethal dose of formaldehyde formaldehyde was released early Thursday morning, when a tanker car parked on railraod sidetracks near Gobbi St. was vandalized. The valve on the car was opened, and 20,000 gallons of the toxin entered a drainage ditch leading to the Russian Russian River. Dickens said 50 tanker trucks, 18 vaccuum trucks and 43 railroad tankers are now in use to pump contaminated water out and truck it to a hazardous waste site in Martinez, Martinez, Calif. More than 100 railroad and IT Corporation personnel, hired by Southern-Pacific Railroad, the lead agency in the clean-up, are on the job, as well as 50 people from county emergency, environmental health and state water quality and fish and game agencies. But it's not enough to keep up with the challenge posed this morning morning by Mother Nature. "Murphy's Law in action is what your story should be called," said one railroad worker this morning, taking cover from the sheets of snow in the anteroom to spill control control command headquarters at the train station. Murphy's Law, a col lection of slogans made popular in books and posters, dictates that whatever can go wrong, will. Sunday, railroad workers at the dam site said the creekbed had been pumped almost bone dry before the rain started. Even yesterday, the water level was only inches below the embankment. Dickens said some groundwater seepage is also suspected in the orchard orchard cradling Doolin Creek, which is having an unkown effect on the Russian River water quality. quality. Orchard owner Bill Johnson said the effect of the contamination on his Bartlett pears is impossible to know at this point. "Nobody knows, but these guys are working real hard and doing a real good Job." Officials advise against using private wells within 100 feet of the river or the creek, and some city water taps have been installed in areas with many wells, notably Robinson Lane. Willow Water, serving south Ukiah, River Estates and Hopland will continue, using emergency water supplies or city water hook- ins, as far as is known at the present present time. River Road near Talmage was closed today to ease truck access for the clean-up.