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EPA: Long-term contamination from fuel spill unlikely

Staff Photo: Jason Braverman Officials worked all day on Monday to clean up gasoline from a tanker crash along U.S. Highway 29 near Dacula. Some of the fuel ended up in a nearby creek.

Staff Photo: Jason Braverman Officials worked all day on Monday to clean up gasoline from a tanker crash along U.S. Highway 29 near Dacula. Some of the fuel ended up in a nearby creek.

DACULA -- An environmental official said Tuesday he doesn't expect long-term contamination from thousands of gallons of fuel spilled this week near Dacula. Drivers in the area should expect travel delays or a generally bumpy ride for a couple of days.

A tanker truck, filled nearly to capacity with 8,500 gallons of gasoline, overturned Monday on U.S. Highway 29/Ga. Highway 8 when a passenger car crossed the center line. The crash hospitalized two people with non-life threatening injuries.

The tanker spilled all but 1,000 gallons across the highway, down an embankment and into a nearby creek, which feeds a larger stream and then the Alcovy River, officials said.

Fire Department spokesman Lt. Eric Eberly said, as a first line of defense, a hazardous materials unit set up dams in the creek and strained, suctioned and soaked about 2,000 gallons of fuel out of the creek. Teams from the Environmental Protection Agency and a private cleaning company were on scene all night; by morning, they had contained another 1,500 gallons, officials said.

By late afternoon, thousands of gallons were still unaccounted for.

Matthew Huyser, a Federal EPA on-scene coordinator, said the primary area of contamination is beside the highway, where excavation efforts were being planned late Tuesday. He had observed no "fish kills" or other signs that wildlife in the area had been impacted.

"This kind of thing happens across the country, unfortunately on a frequent basis," Huyser said. "We don't foresee any long-term impact."

The pooled gasoline turned a large swath of the highway just north of Ga. Highway 316 into "mush," Eberly said.

The Georgia Department of Transportation has scheduled repair work between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Thursday, weather permitting. Though the highway is open, GDOT spokeswoman Teri Pope urged drivers to avoid the area if possible, or to expect a "very rough ride."

"If you must travel in this area, slow down and allow extra time for (crews) to work," Pope said.

Huyser said few residences sit near the affected site, and the creek itself is surrounded by heavy brush and is not commonly used for recreation. Officials have yet to find a documented name for the creek, or the stream it joins before converging with the Alcovy, Huyser said.

"What's beneficial is that we're not seeing (fuel) sheen further down in the larger stream," he said.

Map

Location of tanker crash

Location of tanker crash