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Oil spill reaches Great Salt Lake

For the first time the Chevron pipeline ruptured Friday, June 11, there is evidence the oil spill has stretched to the Great Salt Lake. A shiny film of chemical coating has been seen floating on the surface of the water.

GREAT SALT LAKE, Utah (ABC 4 News) –For the first time the Chevron pipeline ruptured Friday, June 11, there is evidence the oil spill has stretched to the Great Salt Lake. A shiny film of chemical coating has been seen floating on the surface of the water where the Jordan River empties into Farmington Cove on the SaltLake / Davis Countyline.

Work crews are installing oil blocking booms across the Jordan River, about half a mile from its convergence with the lake. Crews are carefully skimming trace amounts of oil caught by 50 foot long booms stretched across the river. This is the last barrier between the spill’s origin at the mouth of Red Butte Canyon and the Great Salt Lake.

More than forty crews are still skimming the pond at Liberty Park in Salt Lake’s geographic center, where most of the 33-thousand-plus gallons have been trapped.

“To date, we've collected 500 barrels of oil,” says Chevron executive Dan Johnson. That equals about 21,000 gallons of oil.

More has made its way into the underground drainage system and into the Jordan River through 30 culverts.

"We regret this whole situation,” Johnson says, “but we are making good progress to stop the spill and to collect as much oil as possible.”

For much of the Jordan River, the progress is not fast enough. Where the river runs under Indiana Avenue, plant life is dying. A mallard was spotted on the river bank, coated with a sheen of oil. Division of Wildlife Resources Conservation Officer Ray Loken responds to this reporter’s call, with net in-hand.

"As soon as I make any kind of move in that direction, it'll almost certainly move into the water," he says. “That’s the last thing you want, right?" I ask. "Yea,” he says. “It'll make him almost impossible to catch him that way."

There are seven checkpoints along the Jordan. At each barrier, crews collect a little less residue. At the last barricade, about half a mile from Farmington Bay and the Great Salt Lake, no trace of black oil balls. The sheen is a troubling sight.

Davis County Health department officers are watching it carefully. They got the jump on this spill Saturday, when they lowered the booms in anticipation of the spill moving this far.

“There are trace amounts of oil from the spill that have moved onto the lake, says official Dave Spence. “It’s a film of hydrocarbons.”

Spencer calls the threat from the sheen “negligible.” He says it is not harmful to the environment. He and his scientists will keep a close eye on this spot, where the Jordan River flows into one of North America’s most important wetlands areas.

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