The Department of Ecology is investigating an oil spill in Olympia's West Bay Marina.
An extensive oil sheen and strong diesel fuel odors were reported late Sunday at the marina, 2100 West Bay Drive.
The department estimates the spill's volume between 20 and 50 gallons of oil. As of Tuesday afternoon, the department had not yet located the source of the spill.
Some type of detergent or soap may have been used on the oil sheen, possibly in an attempt to dissipate the oil, according to the department. Adding soap to oil may appear to make it go away, but the process actually increases damage to marine life, the department reported.
Although the department is handling cleanup, that duty legally falls to the party responsible for the spill, said spokeswoman Linda Kent. Several factors are considered in determining a penalty, such as the type and volume of oil spilled, sensitivity of the aquatic environment where the spill took place, and whether there are any threats to public health or safety.
No oiled birds or wildlife were observed at the marina, Kent said. Most oil spills in marinas consist of small amounts ranging from a few drops to a couple of cups. However, just one quart of oil can foul up 100,000 gallons of water.
"Oil is toxic to the environment and the damage starts as soon as the oil hits the water," Kent said. "The sooner we're notified, the sooner we can start working to minimize any harm to the environment."
Along with the thinning of the oil, the cleanup at West Bay Marina became more complicated with the addition of soap. The department is relying on evaporation and natural degradation, Kent said.
Cleanup methods for thick layers of oil typically involve the use of items such as pads to attract oil without absorbing water. Other cleanup techniques include vacuuming or skimming the oil off the surface.
The public is urged to report oil spills at 800-OILS-911.