- Associated Press - Friday, March 28, 2014

CINCINNATI (AP) - Officials are hoping that as crews move through the next stage of cleanup of thousands of gallons of pipeline oil that leaked into a nature preserve the threat to wildlife will end.

Crews are winding down the initial emergency response, which focused on removing the heaviest concentrations of oil in the Oak Glen Nature Preserve, west of Cincinnati. Federal officials estimate more than 20,000 gallons spilled into the preserve from the leak, discovered nearly two weeks ago.

No problems have been detected with air quality or area water wells, but an official with the Great Parks of Hamilton County, which owns the preserve, said at least 20 animals including salamanders, frogs and crayfish had died. More than 40 animals had been taken from the preserve to be cleaned and cared for until they could be returned to the wild.

Parks stewardship manager Bob Mason said at least 14 rescued creatures had been released into the Miami Whitewater Forest.

A fence was installed around an oil-contaminated intermittent stream to prevent wildlife from entering it, and wildlife crews patrolling the area hope to be able to end the rescue effort soon.

Crews have continued flushing the stream and vacuuming large amounts of oil from soil and water in the 374-acre preserve. But a spokesman with the pipeline’s primary owner, Sunoco Logistics, said the cleanup phase to start next week will concentrate on removing residual oil.

“We will be working to restore the stream to its previous conditions and removing contaminated soil from it very carefully,” Sunoco Logistics spokesman Jeff Shields said.

Mason, who expects to find more dead creatures, said crews will need to avoid any cleanup that could further damage the habitat.

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