Burglary turns to vandalism after 5,000 gallons of mineral oil spills across town


PORTALES, N.M. (KRQE) – A massive mineral oil spill brought part of a New Mexico city to a standstill. Crews have worked all day to clean up the muck from the 5,000-gallon spill that was triggered by burglars. Crews have been busy at work cleaning an oil spill in downtown Portales.

“I feed cattle early in the morning and I came out here about 5 o’clock and this was a mess,” said David Stone, president of J.P. Stone Community Bank.

Five-thousand gallons of mineral oil poured down the main roads, and police say it all stemmed from an incident that occurred early Thursday morning at the feed and grain company J.D. Heiskell, when burglars turned into vandals.

“They had a burglary and several items were taken from the business. Upon the suspects leaving, they opened a valve on a tank and released approximately 5,000 gallons of food grade mineral oil,” said Charlie Smart, a detective for the Portales Police Department.

The mineral oil coated about six blocks, closing streets and creating a lot of work for the Department of Transportation and city workers.

“First of all, they are spreading dirt on the roadway. They’ll clean that up, sweep it up, pick it up, and haul it off,” Smart said.

The cleanup should be completed by Thursday evening. Officials are also out making sure the oil doesn’t cause any more damage.

“We have people monitoring and making sure it isn’t getting into the water system,” Smart said.

Police don’t consider the oil residue to be dangerous. As you can imagine, the mineral oil spill is the talk of the town.

“You know, we’ve seen a lot of things happen in Portales but we’ve never seen a mineral oil spill before. This is kind of new,” Stone said.

Police are not releasing any information on the thieves at this time, and there’s no word yet on the cost of the cleanup. Police are still asking drivers to avoid the area because of the slick roads.

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