On the hottest day so far this year, emergency crews worked feverishly in the humid temperatures to contain a fuel spill caused Thursday when a tanker truck overturned on the bypass at the U.S. 421/701 merge , just north of Sunset Avenue. At first it forced a traffic log jam and then a complete rerouting of traffic as both lanes were shut down.
That shutdown is expected to be in place throughout Thursday night and possibly into Friday morning as work continues at the scene, officials said.
“Everybody has really stepped up,” said Clinton Police Lt. Tim King Thursday afternoon. “This has been a team effort, and it’s not over yet.”
The Waccamaw Transport tanker, traveling south, overturned, King said, when the driver attempted to change lanes to allow another vehicle to merge onto the bypass. “He lost control and the load likely shifted, causing the vehicle to overturn.”
The driver had non-life threatening injuries and was taken to Sampson Regional Medical Center for treatment.
The tanker, however, was a total loss, and the spill, King said brought immediate concern.
“That’s the biggest worry, though we feel very good that it has been contained.”
The city’s wastewater plant, located just off U.S. 421, was not impacted, city officials stressed. “We are keeping an eye out but everything should be fine due to the geography,” one city official noted.
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.
The tanker was reportedly carrying 6,500 gallons of fuel at the time it overturned, and while King wasn’t sure how much had actually spilled, he did acknowledge that it was a lot.
“Right now they are trying to pump what was in the tank and, at the same time, contain the fuel that’s on the ground,” King said late Thursday afternoon.
But the lieutenant wasn’t hopeful that the spill would be cleaned up and lanes opened until much later Thursday night or possibly into Friday morning.
“It really could be all night and possibly into part of tomorrow before we get these lanes back open. I know it’s a headache for folks wanting to travel, but we are asking everyone to please be patient. We are getting it up as quickly as we possibly can, and we are simply trying to be as cautious as we can be,” King said.