Susan Buckley, RN, Director, Public Health
Ira Singh, MPH, Deputy Director
Donald I. Baird, MD, Health Officer

Division of Environmental Health


Date Released: 12/12/2007
Subject: Opening of Freshwater Creek
Contact: Brian Cox, Director, Environmental Health Division
Phone: (707) 445-6215

Based on analytical results from water samples collected since December 4, 2007, the Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Environmental Health (DEH) and the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board have determined that petroleum spilled from the overturned truck is no longer present in Freshwater Creek. Residents may resume using water from the creek with the following provisions:

1. Water taken directly from the creek should be treated to remove sediment and pathogens (bacteria and viruses) prior to consumption. Chlorination of drinking water is the most common effective treatment and is recommended to prevent waterborne illness.
2. Residents should flush their wells and creek intake systems to ensure that water taken from the creek after the spill and prior to shutting down their systems has been removed.
3. A fuel odor and/or sheen on a glass of water taken from the tap are indications that the water is not safe to drink. If you notice either of these problems, please contact us at the number below.


An estimated 120 gallons of diesel fuel, hydraulic fluid, saw gas and motor oil spilled into Freshwater Creek Wednesday, November 28 at about 9 PM when a fuel truck rolled into Freshwater Creek about a mile above Freshwater Park. Immediately after the spill, residents were advised not to drink or cook with water from Freshwater Creek and to avoid washing, bathing, or using the water for other purposes, such as watering animals if a strong chemical odor or a visible sheen was present. Residents were also advised to use only the water provided by the Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District which is supplied from wells in the Mad River.

Cleanup and monitoring

The State of California Department of Fish and Game and the Regional Water Quality Control Board worked with DEH and North Coast Environmental Construction, a private contractor, to mitigate the spill using the Incident Command System. Oil absorbent booms, pads, and other materials were used to collect the petroleum discharged into the creek and onto the banks while the truck was removed from the creek. Water samples were collected upstream and downstream at 20 locations to evaluate the impact of the spill and assess the effectiveness of the cleanup. Based on analytical results received as of December 10, 2007, and field observations, it appears the creek water is no longer being impacted by petroleum from the truck accident. The creek will continue to be monitored over the next few days. Additional information can be obtained by contacting the Humboldt County Division of Environmental Health at (707) 445-6215 or (800) 963-9241.


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