The Valdez Star - Serving Prince William Sound and Copper River Basin

Editor, Valdez Star 

Diesel spill at Paxson Lake is second for oil hauling trucking firm

DEC says spill contained after driver swerves to avoid hunters, wildlife


Photo courtesy ADEC

This Big State Logistics tanker truck overturned at Milepost 42 of the Richardson Highway last month - it was the first of two accidents involving Big State tankers in past month. Another tanker truck overturned near Paxson Lake last Saturday.

A tanker truck hauling diesel overturned near Paxson Lake Saturday, the second such incident on the Richardson Highway in less than a month.

Responders determined that 276 gallons of ultra-low sulfur diesel was released from a Big State Logistics (BSL) tanker truck at around noon Saturday after the driver of the truck attempted to avoid a collision with hunters and unspecified wildlife.

"BSL tanker and trailer lost traction when attempting to stop for wildlife and hunters on the road, causing trailer to start fishtailing," the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) said in a situarion report Monday. "Once the trailer, still attached to the tractor, had pivoted enough to depart the highway it released from the hitch due to a safety feature to prevent both the tractor and trailer from leaving the roadway. The trailer then rolled over and its vapor rail ruptured."

Road conditions at the time of the incident reportedly at noon, Nov. 12, were icy.

Efforts to recover the spilled diesel were immediate according to DEC.

"Initial response actions included containment of released product and lightering of affected trailer," the DEC said. "Response resources brought to site included a vacuum truck for removal of free product and a hydro excavator to install trenches for containment and recovery as well as removal of affected soil. Response efforts have continued through November 14, 2016 with the recovery of free product from land and lake ice and will continue as long as necessary."

The spill did involve surface ice on the lake.

"Bureau of Land Management (BLM) managed land on the west side of the Richardson Hwy by MP180 and a 10-foot-by-10-foot area of ice on Paxson Lake have been affected," the reports said. "The release point is located approximately 60 feet from the lake shore and product has migrated with subsurface water runoff on to the frozen lake."

The reports says that DEC continued to monitor the spill area through Tuesday - and will continue if needed.

"ADEC will continue to monitor the response actions and review plans being developed to further delineate the affected area, as well as required containment and cleanup actions," DEC said. "Department representatives plan to travel to the site on November 15, 2016 to assess current conditions."

It was the second fuel spill on the Richardson Highway involving a Big State Logistics tanker truck since winter driving conditions descended Alaska's highways.

Last month, responders collected hundreds of gallons of mixed fuel oil and water from a spill that occurred near the Tsaina River.

In that incident, no fuel reached the river after the tanker's trailer landed upside-down in the dry riverbed after the driver of the rig lost control of the truck at around Milepost 42 of the Richardson Highway.

The Associated Press reported that the driver for Big State Logistics, Dale Cropp, 59, of Fairbanks was driving north when he attempted to pull into a turnout to remove chains from his truck in the October incident.

The trailer reportedly was carrying 4,630 gallons of diesel, and suffered a small puncture in the rollover. Reports say that about 4,260 gallons of fuel was transferred out of the overturned tank trailer.

Big State Logistics is a contract expediting service and operates terminals in Valdez and Fairbanks.

Photo courtesy BLM

The spill site after a hydroexcavated trench was filled with absorbent materials.

It has a "Satisfactory" rating with Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

Road conditions have varied, sometimes from day to day, since winter weather has come and gone in the months of October and November.

All travelers on Alaska's roads are encouraged to consult 511.Alaska.Gov before hitting the road.

Last Thursday, Valdez police issued a travel advisory for the Richardson Highway, warning of winter driving hazards that included areas of heavy snow and white out conditions, and freezing rain.

Conditions can also change quickly, and it is important to not only monitor your own activities on the road, but to watch out for other motorists when on the highway.


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