Up to 16,000 gallons of waste oil might have spilled through two culverts into the North Raccoon River. The spill was reported Thursday afternoon the the Greene County Sheriff&rsquo;s office and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources began cleanup efforts that same day.<span style="font-size: xx-small;"><em> Daily Times Herald photos by Jeff Storjohann</em></span>
Up to 16,000 gallons of waste oil might have spilled through two culverts into the North Raccoon River. The spill was reported Thursday afternoon the the Greene County Sheriff’s office and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources began cleanup efforts that same day. Daily Times Herald photos by Jeff Storjohann
Friday, September 14, 2012

JEFFERSON — Up to 16,000 gallons of oil have spilled into the North Raccoon River from an oil-storage tank at Krieger Greenhouses on the west side of town, state natural resources officials say.

The spill, which was reported Thursday afternoon by the Greene County Sheriff’s office, has left a black sheen on the river for about eight miles, said Alison Manz, of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

Workers scrambled to contain the spill with long absorbent booms that stretched across the river, but the oil went a further two miles down river overnight, she said.

“It’s terrible. It’s really, really bad,” Manz said. “There are very, very large oil deposits. ... The river is totally black and has a very strong odor.”

It’s unclear whether the oil has killed any fish.

The oil spilled from an open valve on a large, above-ground storage tank, went under Westwood Drive through two culverts and seeped into the river, Manz said. It’s unclear whether someone opened the valve deliberately or by accident.

It’s also unknown how much oil went into the river. The storage tank holds up to 20,000 gallons of oil and has 4,000 remaining. But Krieger Greenhouses could not say how much was in the tank before the spill, Manz said.

A man who answered the phone at Krieger Greenhouses and declined to identify himself said the spill is “not a big deal” and that environmental officials “were done” working at the site.

Manz declined to say what penalty ­— if any — Krieger Greenhouses might face.

Cleanup of the river will take several days, she said. It’s unclear what effects the oil will have on the river and the people who use its water. It’s possible that fish will die, Manz said.

Des Moines-area cities that are downstream draw water from the river for residents to drink.

“This is going to be a slow process,” Manz said. “It won’t be an easy cleanup.”