“An Oily Sky”
Skykomish High School
Students in the film class at Skykomish High School have produced two documentary videos on the issue of oil seeping through the soil from an old railroad fueling station in the community. The videos are entitled “An Oily Sky”. “Sky” is the local name for the mountain community of Skykomish, which is located in the far north end of King County, Washington. The first video produced was a two-minute overview about the oil and heavy metal contamination present in the Skykomish rail yard and described what efforts had been done to date. Oil had been observed seeping into the river as early as the 1920s but was dismissed as being a minor problem associated with overfilled fuel tanks on the locomotives. Studies in the 1990s established the amount of underground oil to be approximately 160,000 gallons. Some recovery efforts were begun but by the year 2000 only a little over 700 gallons of the oil had been recovered and oil was still seeping into the Skykomish River. The students wanted to do a more complete video documentary and use the video to increase public awareness of the problem. They applied for and received grant funds from the King County Solid Waste Division to produce a more complete video. Students took charge of the entire production, receiving technical help from the film class teacher, the school principal, and 911 Media Arts Center where all the editing and sound dubbing took place. This video was premiered at the Hazel Wolf Environmental Film Festival in Leavenworth, Washington in April of 2001, and since has been shown to students, community members, newspaper and television reporters, representatives of Burlington Santa Fe Railroad, Washington Department of Ecology personnel, and other interested parties.
The increased awareness of the problem has started work on remedial action. A first step in the total cleanup of the oil spill took place last summer by the building of a barrier wall to prevent oil seepage into the Skykomish River.