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THATCHER CO. TO PAY $275,000 IN ACID SPILL

A Utah company that spilled hydrochloric acid into the John Day River has agreed to pay $275,000 in what an assistant U.S. attorney general says is the largest environmental damage settlement in Oregon history.

The money will go to the federal government, Oregon and the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indians Reservation for the Feb. 8, 1990, spill."This settlement is designed to help restore or replace natural resources damaged as a result of the John Day acid spill," said U.S. Assistant Attorney General Vicki O'Meara. "The settlement further demonstrates that joint efforts between federal and state governments and treaty tribes have outstanding results."

A tanker truck owned by the Thatcher Co. skidded off U.S. 395 near Dale, 50 miles south of Pendleton, and into the north fork of the John Day River, releasing 3,500 gallons of acid into the river.

The acid killed 100,000 fish and other aquatic life along 12 miles of river. Among the fish killed were steelhead, chinook, rainbow trout and bull trout.

State and federal agencies and the tribes will develop a plan to determine how the money should be spent.

Projects may include fencing to protect and enhance river vegetation, purchase of land along the river and improvements in the river to enhance fish spawning and rearing habitat, state, federal and tribal officials said.