ARLINGTON — Dick Walker, senior spill responder with the state Department of Ecology’s spill-response program, said two teams of materials specialists are working to find and contain contaminants at the Oso-area mudslide site to protect searchers and the public.
Walker said the entire mudslide site is presumed to be contaminated with household chemicals, diesel and propane from heating tanks, mineral oil from transformers and flammable gas tanks.
Most of the material found so far has been crushed from the force of the slide, he said, but searchers are also looking in pockets and voids.
“We don’t want people reaching into spaces where they may get a chemical burn,” Walker said.
Waste from septic systems also may be in the slide area, he said, so searchers are being hosed down before they leave.
Walker said the contamination is similar to what would be found following a hurricane or tornado, and will eventually be cleaned up.
But cleanup will have to wait until the recovery is completed.
“We’re only doing what is necessary to provide for the safety of the responders,” he said.