A diesel fuel leak from a tanker truck closed about 20 miles of northbound Interstate 81 between Woodstock and Middletown for a few hours on Wednesday morning.
Just before 7 a.m., the Virginia Department of Transportation began receiving reports from Shenandoah County Fire and Rescue of diesel fuel on the roadway and that vehicles were spinning out, said Kenneth Slack, a VDOT spokesman for the Staunton District.
The spill was initially reported to be on the interstate between Exit 291 at Toms Brook and Exit 302 at Middletown, and that area received the worst of it, Slack said. The spill was then identified extending south to Exit 283 at Woodstock, Slack said.
“It was a lot of coordination,” he said about the response and cleanup efforts.
Crews shut down the interstate from Exit 283 to Exit 302 for the cleanup until about 11 a.m. Traffic had to be rerouted along Route 11 from Woodstock north through Strasburg and back onto I-81 in Middletown. Motorists, including tractor trailers, were also seen traveling north on Back Road through Shenandoah County during the highway closure.
State police assisted with traffic control during the cleanup efforts, Sgt. Brent Coffey said. A minor crash between two tractor trailers happened at the 282-mile marker but no injuries were reported, he said.
No overturned cars or anything serious resulted from the spin-outs in the wake of the diesel fuel spill, Slack said. The road conditions were similar to slippery wintertime pavement, he said.
VDOT spread crushed limestone, sometimes called “rock dust,” to improve traction for drivers, Slack said.
The spilled fuel was in a thin layer on the roadway in a volume not large enough for it to run off it, Slack said. The truck, he said, apparently was driving at normal highway speed in the spill area.
As a precaution, a few areas had absorbent pads placed on the roadway to prevent any fuel from getting into waterways as well as around mile marker 300 where the truck came to a stop, Slack added.
No significant environmental impact resulted from the spill beyond the roadway, said Todd Pitsenberger, petroleum and pollution response manager for the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality’s Valley Regional Office. Rain may cause residual fuel to make the road slick, Pitsenberger noted.
The leak was discovered to be from a hose valve underneath the tanker, Coffey said. The tanker was with Norfolk Southern, which will be covering the environmental cleanup costs, Pitsenberger said. It was not clear if the company will cover VDOT's cleanup costs.
A media relations manager with Norfolk Southern did not return a request for comment by press time.