UPDATE: Read our latest story on the fuel spill, which has prompted concerns from residents about environmental damage.
A diesel fuel spill from the Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System's Palo Alto campus flowed into Matadero Creek on Thursday, contaminating a 600-foot section of the creek.
A failed sensor in a generator plant pump at the campus caused the May 6 spill, which entered a nearby storm drain flowing into the creek at approximately 11 a.m., according to an email, which was sent to Barron Park Association President John King. The campus is located at 3801 Miranda Ave. in Palo Alto behind Gunn High School.
"There is minimal risk of fuel breaking containment upstream. Most of the spilled diesel fuel was captured inside the VA generator building. On-site staff responded immediately to stop the spill and cleanup," Hill-Jackson wrote.
A hazardous materials cleanup team arrived within 45 minutes and they have been working to contain the spill, including the placement of absorbent booms in the creek, he said.
The VA has received approval for a mitigation plan with California Fish and Wildlife Service and the Palo Alto Fire Department. Cleanup efforts will continue until the spill is adequately contained and removed from the surrounding environment, Hill-Jackson said. The VA has notified 13 state, federal and local authorities regarding the spill.
"We will continue to share updates should any changes to our plan occur," Hill-Jackson said.
Matadero Creek is home to Pacific tree frogs and is frequented by the native gray fox. It historically supported endangered steelhead trout.
The VA and a Palo Alto Fire Department spokesperson could not immediately be reached for comment.
The spill is not the first for the VA. A 1982 wheelchair-cleaner spill from the Palo Alto VA caused a die-off of tree frogs that took 20 years to rebound, according to longtime residents.
The creek was also subject to a chemical cleanup from the Superfund cleanup Hillview-Porter site in Stanford Research Park in 1994. In 2008, 40 gallons of water containing copper and nickel from Communications and Power Industries leaked into a storm drain and into the creek.
In 2010, 25 gallons of white roofing material washed into Matadero Creek from a Xerox/VMWare building after a rainstorm.