Oregon Eel Cleanup: 'It’s Not Going To Be A Very Pleasant Smell'

Jul 14, 2017
Originally published on July 14, 2017 3:04 pm

Lou Torres has worked with the Oregon Department of Transportation on and off for about 12 years.

He was there for the time a truck carrying fish guts overturned, for that other time when whipped cream covered I-5 and for that time bee hives — filled with bees — fell onto a highway.

Still, Torres ranked the the hagfish spill that happened in the southbound lane of U.S. Highway 101 on Thursday as a 9.5 out of 10 on the “weird incident” scale.

“I didn’t know much about them until what happened yesterday afternoon; now I know a lot about hagfish,” said Torres, ODOT's Region 2 public information officer.

As of Friday morning, the hagfish — commonly known as slime eels — were moved to the side of the highway. Crews used bulldozers to shovel them out of the way of drivers, and the Depoe Bay Fire Department was tasked with washing the road.

Transportation officials said the highway is fully functional, but the work is not done.

“It still needs to be cleaned up because obviously you get a warm day like today with all that fish debris and matter — it’s not going to be a very pleasant smell around there,” Torres said.

The spill happened after a driver in the northbound lane was unable to stop his truckload of eels in time for an ODOT flagger at a construction zone.

He was hauling 13 containers carrying 7,500 pounds of hagfish, according to Oregon State Police.

One of the containers came off the truck bed and flew across the highway into the southbound lane, hitting one car and setting off a chain of collisions that damaged three more vehicles.

OSP said the driver could face charges as a result of the spill.

According to Torres, the owner of the truck is now responsible for final cleanup efforts. That includes creating a traffic plan in the event cars may need to yield to crews gathering the fish.

“We’re going to be real concerned about that because it’s U.S. 101, it’s summer, it’s a Friday and Saturday, and it gets very congested on the highway,” Torres said.

The goal is to get the road fully cleaned by the end of the day Friday, although Torres said the job might spill into Saturday morning.

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