published Friday, March 18th, 2011

Bledsoe diesel spill no threat

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Last week’s tanker truck spill of up to 200 gallons of off-road diesel fuel in Bledsoe County had no impact on drinking-water supplies, state officials say.

Just before noon on March 8, a Kenan Transport truck hauling 1,500 to 2,000 gallons of diesel flipped into a ravine on McWilliams Road. The truck spilled 75 to 200 gallons of diesel, Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation spokeswoman Meg Lockhart said.

State officials visited the 100-foot ravine the next day as a cleanup crew from a company paid by Kenan’s insurance carrier was putting out rolls of material called “boom” to absorb the spilled fuel.

TDEC officials noted that more than an inch of rain had fallen between the time of the accident and their arrival, and it’s possible some fuel could have been washed into the Sequatchie River.

The Sequatchie River is the source of drinking water for Dunlap, a town of almost 7,200 people.

Officials looked for signs of the fuel in a nearby cattle pond and the river, Lockhart said.

“While there was an odor of diesel fuel present at the site, there was no apparent sheen to indicate that diesel had been carried by the rainwater,” she said. “There was no apparent sheen indicating diesel in any body of water examined.”

Based on that assessment, TDEC did not collect water samples, she said.

Dunlap Water Treatment Plant Superintendent Philip Roberson said he didn’t know about the spill until he read about it in the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

“I assume [TDEC has] a protocol if they feel like it got close enough to the water source to be a problem,” he said.

Dunlap uses about 600,000 gallons of water a day, drawn periodically from the river, Roberson said. The city pumped water into a storage basin for treatment on March 8, but didn’t draw any river water between March 9 and 13, he said.

If fuel was flushed into the river on March 8, Roberson said, he doubts it would have reached Dunlap’s intake until late that day or early March 9.

Roberson said “it would have been nice” to have been notified about the spill.

TDEC expects a final report and post-sampling data within 75 days to help personnel determine if further cleanup is needed or whether there were any violations, officials said.

Becky Perlaky, vice president of safety and compliance for Chapel Hill, N.C.-based Kenan, said driver Thomas David Farr, 54, of East Ridge, sustained minor injuries but was treated at a hospital and later released.

Tennessee Highway Patrol officials said no citations were issued.

about Ben Benton...

Ben Benton is a news reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He covers Southeast Tennessee and previously covered North Georgia education. Ben has worked at the Times Free Press since November 2005, first covering Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties and later adding Marion, Grundy and other counties in the northern and western edges of the region to his coverage. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Tenn., a graduate of Bradley Central High School. Benton ...

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