Thursday, February 24, 2011

Environmental cleanup focus at Forks U.S. 101 accident scene

By Kim Schmanke, Communication Manager, Southwest Region Office

OLYMPIA – Response units from the Washington Department of Ecology, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Hoh Tribe, and environmental cleanup crews remain on the scene of Wednesday’s fuel-tanker accident near Forks.

At about 8:25 a.m. on Feb. 23, a Pettit Oil tank truck-trailer overturned and released several thousand gallons of diesel fuel to the shoulder and ditch along north bound U.S.101.

Today’s efforts are focused on identifying the extent of environmental impacts and cleaning up as much as possible. This includes soil excavation around the accident scene.

The southbound lane of Highway 101 near mile post 167 is being used to move traffic in alternating directions through the scene. Traffic impacts are likely for several more days as soil excavation is expected to take three or more days to complete.

The latest information indicates an estimated 4,300 gallons of diesel fuel may have spilled from the tank trailer.

Protecting wetlands from spilled diesel

“This is an unfortunate accident,” said Jim Sachet, Ecology’s spill response manager for the Olympic Peninsula and Southwest region. “Pettit Oil responded quickly by hiring a cleanup company and environmental consultant. Efforts are focused on collecting as much diesel as possible from the accident scene and nearby wetland.”

Ecology responders say the diesel made it into a wetland by traveling from the accident scene in a drainage ditch, through a culvert under the highway and into an unnamed creek. Information provided from on scene today indicates that the wetland drains into Chalaat Creek.

Some diesel sheen was observed on the creek near the site of the truck accident. Fletcher Creek, which runs parallel to the wetland, was not affected. No impacts have been noted or expected in the Hoh River.

Crews from the Washington State Patrol, Washington State Dept. of Transportation and Ecology responded to the accident yesterday and were assisted by local and tribal responders.

See the Spills Incident website for more information on this and other spills.

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