Workers clear cement from contaminated creek

Crews continued cleaning up a small Oakland creek Monday into which East Bay Municipal Utility District contractors accidentally dumped about 12 truckloads of cement last week, a district spokeswoman said.

The cleanup of Glen Echo Creek will take at least a few more days, EBMUD spokeswoman Michelle Blackwell said today. Crews spent today cleaning the section of creek that goes through the Claremont Country Club off Broadway Terrace.

Over the weekend they removed the large pieces of cement from the open areas of the creek behind the Clarewood Townhouses and between Truitt Lane and Harbord Drive. The city of Oakland also sent a camera through the underground portions of the creek to evaluate the blockages and start working on a plan to clear them, Blackwell said.

She said the state Department of Fish and Wildlife has done continual water testing and has found no indication the cement went beyond the country club. The spill happened last Wednesday morning when a contractor working for EBMUD started filling a 1930s-era section of pipe with cellular cement, a lightweight cement with a foaming agent used to fill abandoned pipes.

The 2-mile section of pipe that previously serviced 13,000 homes in the Oakland hills had been replaced over the last few years. But when crews started pouring cement into the pipe, it was found pouring out of a valve left open near the corner of Florence Avenue and Harbord Drive into the creek and flowing downstream.

The valve was a non-standard valve that turned a different way than most of the district’s 70,000 valves so when inspection crews checked the pipe, it appeared to be closed. In all, about a half-mile of the creek was left in a gray, gunky mess before a neighbor noticed the cement flowing through the creek and alerted EBMUD. Up to 106 cubic yards of cement made its way into the creek.

Two golden-crowned sparrows were killed because of the spill and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials are still working on determining the overall impact. It could take years for the watershed to get back to normal. But the impact could have been much worse had the creek been flowing as fast as it normally would at this time of year, Fish and Wildlife Service officials said. Only a fraction of the normal creek flow is left because of the drought.