By Sally Voth
Clean up of a fuel spill resulting when a tanker crashed on Middle Road near Cedar Creek during superstorm Sandy could take at least a week, according to a Virginia Department of Environmental Quality employee.
"It was a milk tanker truck that overturned in high water and the milk was taken off the truck before it was uprighted," said DEQ pollution response coordinator Jennifer Welcher on Thursday.
However, about 150 gallons of diesel fuel spilled, she said.
Virginia Department of Emergency Management spokeswoman Laura Southard said the fuel went into the ground "and perhaps into a creek."
"When an incident occurs that could have a hazardous impact, our technical people are called in," Southard said.
After it's determined there is no environmental threat, DEQ is then responsible for the clean up, she said.
State police spokesman Sgt. F.L. "Les" Tyler said the tanker lost control in high water around 1:15 a.m. Tuesday. He didn't have the driver's identity.
Milk would've been damaging to the creek, according to Southard.
"Milk would've taken oxygen out of the water and then the fish would've suffered," she said. "We had to make sure that the milk wasn't spilling and it didn't. That's definitely serious business."
Welcher said cleanup was still going on, and might take a week. She said most of the fuel likely washed down creek, although some residual amounts were still present, and a contractor was doing the work.
"It was in such high water that it probably didn't have any impact just because the water amount was so, so great," Welcher said. "That's a good thing. If it saturates into the ground it can kill vegetation. It shouldn't have any impact there once they get it all cleaned up. They're using absorbent booms and pads at this time."
She, too, said spilled milk would've created a worse problem. The tanker was hauling 86,000 gallons of it, according to Welcher.
"Once it dries up a little bit, they will take soil samples and they will remove any contaminated soils and then put back clean soil and sod and mulch it," she said. "Normally, it doesn't take very long, but it's not normal to have it so saturated with water. It may take a week or more."
Contact staff writer Sally Voth at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or firstname.lastname@example.org