Cleanup continues after tanker wreck

By Sherry Matthews

June 27, 2014

More than a week after a Waccamaw Transport fuel tanker overturned at the U.S. 421/701 merge, clean-up crews were still hard at work unearthing bad soil and replacing it with new Friday afternoon, with expectations that they’ll be on site for at least several more days.

Although the southbond lanes of U.S. 421 remain open, orange cones have been erected for about a 1/8-mile stretch and the lane narrowed to one so crews can continue work at the site.

“They’re still in the process of cleaning up,” said Sampson County fire marshal Jerry Cashwell. “I’m not sure exactly how long it’s going to take them, but I’d say a while because they’ve got to remove several feet of soil and then replace it.”

The clean-up was necessary because the tanker lost 8,000 gallons of gasoline and diesel fuel on June 19, when the truck overturned, its load apparently shifting as it attempted to change lanes to allow a motorist to pass. The spill, Cashwell said, dumped the fuel into the ditch, the area most impacted by the overflow.

Eastern is handling the site work, hired to do so by Waccamaw Transport, the truck’s owner and the one responsible for ensuring the cleanup is completed. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Department of Transportation are the two agencies charged with oversight of the operation.

“What they’re doing is removing the contaminated dirt and then replacing it with new, which is typical with these type spills,” Cashwell said. “I have no idea how much dirt they are taking out or putting back, but it will be substantial, no question. It’ll be yard after yard after yard.”

Although the spill was confined to the ditch area, crews are working beyond the scope of the spill, a precautionary measure that ensures all the contamination has been removed.

“They will have to remove several feet of soil,” Cashwell said.

Black tarp has been positioned in the ditch, he said, to divert rain water from the top of the spill, just another precaution.

“Everything that’s being done is typical for this type of spill,” the fire marshall said.

Although the tanker overturned near the entrance to Clinton’s wastewater treatment facility, it was not impacted at all, according to city officials.

Cashwell reiterated that fact Friday, noting again that the spill was contained in the ditch.

The June 19 accident shut down both northbound and southbound lanes of the highway for most of the day Thursday and into the evening, causing a logjam.

Emergency Management Services, the Clinton Police, the Department of Transportation, all the county’s fire departments, a Warsaw fire crew, the EPA and a Hazmat team from Fayetteville — a total of over 40 people — were on scene, helping to block traffic, put out sand and buffers and run other calls that were coming in throughout the afternoon on June 19.

By 8 p.m., and much earlier than first expected, travel resumed along the highway.

“Everyone did a great job,” Cashwell said. “It was truly a team effort.”