The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lost more than 470 gallons of oil at the Dalles Dam east of Portland on the Columbia River.
The oil level in one of the generating units at the hydropower dam appeared low on March 18. A maintenance worker added more oil, but the level was low again four days later.
The Corps does not know where the oil went.
Columbia Riverkeeper, an environmental advocacy group that aims to preserve Oregon's largest natural waterway, fears that the oil may have spilled into the river. In 2014, the group settled a lawsuit against the Army Corps of Engineers, requiring the Corps to get water pollution permits from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and consider the use of non-toxic oils in dams along the Columbia and Snake rivers.
"Shockingly, the Army Corps faces no penalties for fouling our rivers with toxic oil pollution," Lauren Goldberg, Staff Attorney for Columbia Riverkeeper, said in a statement. "People rely on clean water and healthy salmon runs."
Army Corps of Engineers spokesman Tom Conning said in a statement that there was "no evidence the oil went into the Columbia River," but the agency was monitoring downstream water for signs of contamination.