Thurston Co. testing for water contamination after diesel spill

TUMWATER, Wash. --The Thurston County Public Health Department is testing well water at seven homes in Tumwater after a diesel spill contaminated about 1,000 square yards of land.

The homes are located along 49th Avenue SW, about a block away from the spill.

On August 16, a Tacoma Rail locomotive hauling routine freight hit some short of obstruction on the tracks. The fuel tank was punctured, causing 1,700 gallons of diesel fuel to leak into the ground.

Tacoma Rail says it's a case of "malicious mischief." It's unclear what type of object obstructed the tracks or who is responsible. Both local and federal authorities are investigating.

"It's scary. If it would have happened a little bit closer to the road -- where the run off is -- it could have been devastating," said Jim Lance, who lives close to the spill.

Neighbors like Lance have tremendous concern after the Thurston County Health Department left a letters on the door steps of homes in the area warning of potential contamination.

"It could impact the wells. Even at low concentration. It could be at a level that could be a public health concern," said Art Starry, the Director of the Environmental Health Division at the Thurston County Public Health Department.

But Lance's biggest concern is that the spill happened August 16 and he says he wasn't notified until August 22 by letter.

"Nobody has told me anything, and that's the problem," said Lance. "They waited days and should have come and told all the residents in the neighborhood."

Starry says both Department of Ecology and Thurston County Public Health worked together to notify residents in person as well as in writing.

The Health Department says they would like to test all seven residential wells in the area of the spill. They were out testing on Monday, but there was no word if any diesel was detected.

Tacoma Rail is offering a $1,000 dollar reward to anyone with information that leads to an arrest.