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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Officials assessing oil-spill damage in Yakima River

Associated Press

SUNNYSIDE, Wash. – The emergency response to an oil spill in Sunnyside is winding down, and officials say they’re turning their attention to signs of long-term damage.

The spill, discovered March 1, came from a tank at a feed storage facility. It leaked more than 1,500 gallons of used motor oil into a series of irrigation drainage ditches that discharge into the Yakima River.

The spill passed a portion of the Yakima River ecosystem full of backwaters and wetlands popular for hunting and fishing, and populated by river otters, beavers and waterfowl. A sheen was visible as far as Prosser, 24 river miles away.

On Friday, animal rehabilitation experts stopped searching for birds and other animals to rescue, but they’ll continue to wash and treat the 17 mallard ducks and 50 geese they rescued, the Yakima Herald-Republic reported. Nineteen birds died from the spill.

State Department of Ecology officials said most of the cleanup has been completed, including the deployment of absorbent booms and the vacuuming up of thousands of gallons of contaminated water.

Scientists and technicians will begin more assessments of damage by soil testing and other methods.

Yakama Nation environmental technicians helped clean up, while officials from the state Fish and Wildlife Department and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency also responded.

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