Overturned truck dumps fuel into tributary of Columbia

By Eric Florip, Columbian Transportation & Environment Reporter



Crews tackled a large cleanup early Tuesday after a semi truck overturned off U.S. Highway 97, spilling diesel and oil into the Little Klickitat River north of Goldendale, state ecology officials said.

The truck crashed just after 1 a.m. Tuesday, said Washington State Patrol Trooper Ryan Tanner. Responders estimated the size of the spill at 280 gallons.

The driver of the truck, 51-year-old Visesio Salt of Salt Lake City, was unhurt, Tanner said.

Crews expected to spend much of the day clearing out the truck itself, which came to rest on the bank of the river. The trailer was pulled back up to the road Tuesday afternoon, said state Department of Ecology spokeswoman Jani Gilbert. It had been carrying construction materials and insulation, which were also cleared out.

It’s unclear what caused the crash, or how much fuel spilled directly into the river, Gilbert said. Contaminants can also work their way into waterways by seeping through the ground. The Little Klickitat River flows through Goldendale, then joins the Klickitat River to the west before emptying into the Columbia River near Lyle.

The spill happened about 10 miles above the Columbia, Gilbert said. Crews couldn’t say what the spill’s full impact would be Tuesday, she said.

“Any spill is bad, and it affects the ecosystem in some way,” Gilbert said. “We don’t like to see it happen.”

New Legend Trucking, which owns the truck, hired contractor National Response Corp. to lead the clean-up effort. Workers used absorbent boom and other pads to soak up as much diesel and oil as they could, Gilbert said, replacing them about every hour.

The ecology department operates a Spills Program that helps coordinate responses to hazardous material spills across the state. The department urges people to call two phone numbers in the event of a spill, regardless of size — the Washington Emergency Management Division at 1-800-258-5990 and the National Response Center at 1-800-424-8802.

Under Washington state law, all hazardous material and oil spills must be reported by the spiller.

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