WILMINGTON — About 23,000 gallons of diesel fuel spilled from an R+L Carriers 1-million gallon tank on Gillam Road last weekend after workers failed to secure some bolts after cleaning and then refilling the tank, an official with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said at a Tuesday afternoon news conference.
The news conference was held by the EPA as well as the Clinton County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) and Clinton County Health District.
EPA On-Scene Coordinator Steve Renninger, who is based in Cincinnati, told reporters that this is considered a “medium spill” due to more than 10,000 gallons being released inland, and the spill containment area is about 3.5 miles of Dutch Creek, in Liberty Township.
He said they feel a large percentage of the spill has been contained within the remediation/containment area, but there is much left to vacuum and pump out.
The tank is about a quarter-mile from Dutch Creek.
“Oil sheen” — a lighter, diluted oil which is non-recoverable and floats on the surface is as far as the Little Miami River in Morrow, partly due to the heavy rains Monday.
Dutch Creek flows to Todd’s Fork, which goes into to the Little Miami River. Agencies responsible for downwater intakes are “well aware of the spill” and are monitoring and sampling the water, Renninger said, adding that his belief is that the downwater drinking water is safe for the public.
Initially it was feared that the spill was closer to 80,000 gallons, but that was later lowered.
“More than 2,000 fish, frogs and crayfish were killed” by the spill, an Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife spokesperson said Monday, with other reports of dead muskrats and ducks.
There are currently seven different contractors working around the clock and eight areas within the containment zone.
R+L Carriers has been “very cooperative” with authorities and has agreed to fund the entire cleanup, Renninger said.
Area residents initially notified the Wilmington Fire Department of the smell of fuel on Saturday, said Clinton County EMA Director Thomas Breckel, and that began a chain of rapid communications between dispatchers and fire departments, among others.
Renniger said R+L notified the National Response Center of the spill on Saturday evening, and the response center notified local, state and federal agencies. The Clinton County EMA put out a public notice of the spill and alerted the media.
Although there has been no known public statement or contact with local residents from R+L Carriers, Renninger said the authorities have been in contact with R+L Carriers three to six hours per day.
Matt Johannes of the Clinton County Health District said most homes in the spill area are hooked up to public water and drinking water is safe. He advised that anyone with private water systems/wells contact the health district to have their water tested.
“Diesel is a lighter product that floats on water and is contained to the waterway. The likelihood of it making its way into area wells is low,” said Matt Johannes of the Clinton County Health District. “The majority of the product is believed to be contained on the property and site of the release.”
Investigation by the Port William-Liberty Township Joint Fire District on Saturday identified the release at 600 Gillam Road, according to the EMA.
A unified command was established over the weekend between the U.S. EPA, Ohio EPA, Port William-Liberty Township Joint Fire District and Clinton County.
Also on scene Monday were the “U.S. EPA, Ohio EPA, U.S. Coast Guard personnel, and numerous contractors all who have worked endlessly over the last two-and-a-half days to establish containment,” according to the EMA.
A stretch of Gurneyville Road was closed after the spill, and it remains closed.
Renninger said the containment period will last “several more days” and, when asked if R+L will face any fines, stated that the emphasis for now remains on containment.
Officials added that residents are best served to stay out of and avoid fishing in Dutch Creek, not only due to the water quality, but also heavy equipment and active remediation work being done.
Along with the smell of diesel fuel in the air in the wake of the spill, power was knocked out for several hours Monday for over 1,200 AES Ohio customers in that area due to a tree falling into power lines during the storms early that morning.