Potato waste befouls Milton-Freewater street

A spill from a commercial truck stunk up the town Tuesday afternoon.

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MILTON-FREEWATER -- If you're in the mood for potato soup, Tuesday was your chance.

A commercial truck -- filled to the brim -- was transporting a load of potato silage, or waste, from Nyssa in the southeast corner of Oregon and through the city when something went very, very wrong, city officials said today.

At about 3:30 p.m., the driver realized his rig was losing its load on Main Street and pulled over to a gravel lot behind the Milton-Freewater Public School District administration building.

The truck was an older model with a conveyor system meant for laterally discharging its cargo, the driver told police officers. Apparently, upon descending Milton Hill into town, a bladder on the rig broke, allowing for potato spewage, explained Dave Bradshaw, director of public works for the city. "A whole truckload."

City crews attacked the sticky mess, which was mostly liquid with tiny chunks of spuds mixed in. The slurry smelled like, well, worse than area "pea ponds," he said. "I can't think of anything I could even compare it to, unless you went by a pig pen someplace."

The first cleaning wave was the street sweeper, but the waste was too thick and sticky for good results. Crews brought out dump trucks and backhoes, chasing the mess into the gravel lot.

It took about three hours to corral the renegade tanked taters and clean up the lot, Bradshaw said. "Today we're going to try and finish washing it off."

Sending the silage into the sewer system was not an option, at least at first flush. "We were afraid it would be too thick and would spread the odor through town."

The smell was much better by this morning, the public works director said. As far as all the vehicles that had to drive through cream of potato, Bradshaw could offer no wisdom on what the sludge might do to an auto body. "I rinsed off my car yesterday."

Sheila Hagar can be reached at sheilahagar@wwub.com or 526-8322.

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