Creek that drains into Congaree River turns red after fuel spill in downtown Columbia

·1 min read
Sammy Fretwell/

South Carolina environmental regulators were on the scene Friday of a likely fuel spill into a creek that runs though downtown Columbia to the Congaree River.

State Department of Health and Environmental Control officials were at both Memorial Park in the Vista, right below Finlay Park, and at the observation deck below the Gervais Street bridge Friday afternoon investigating the apparent spill.

Officials at the scenes would not comment when asked by The State what had happened.

Congaree Riverkeeper Bill Stangler told The State it was a diesel spill of several hundred gallons that originated above Finlay Park. DHEC officials he spoke with told him the spill originated at the Strom Thurmond federal building, Stangler said.

A “concerned citizen’’ called the riverkeeper Friday morning and alerted him to the problem, Stangler said.

On Friday afternoon, the creek at Memorial Park was flowing red, and parts of the creek near the river were even brighter red. The odor of a petroleum substance was strong at both locations.

It appeared that someone had placed barriers in the creek in an attempt to prevent the spill from getting into the river. It was not obvious whether the spill had reached the Congaree, based on observations by a reporter with The State.

Traci Yodice, a West Columbia resident who was strolling a boardwalk near the Congaree River, said it was hard not to notice that something was amiss in the red-stained creek.

“That is strong,’’ Yodice said, describing the petroleum odor. “We noticed it. It was like some kind of oil. ‘’

The State was awaiting more information from DHEC.

This is a developing story and will be updated with more details as they become available. It has been updated from an earlier version.

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