Cleanup from an estimated 4,000-gallon diesel fuel spill at the I-95 Tydings Bridge near Havre de Grace continued Wednesday and was expected to take until at least Thursday to complete, a spokesperson for the Maryland Department of the Environment said.
Although traffic was flowing smoothly on the interstate highway Wednesday, major delays were experienced by northbound travelers Tuesday, after a loaded fuel tanker truck overturned just after 8 a.m. near the entrance to the bridge over the Susquehanna River between Harford and Cecil counties.
The northern Harford County stretch of I-95 did not fully re-open until 6:05 p.m. Tuesday, as clean-up crews spent almost 10 hours dealing with the spill, removing the rest of the truck's load to other trucks and removing the wreckage.
A contractor was still cleaning up around the spill area Wednesday, a Maryland Transportation Authority spokesperson said, again necessitating the closure of one northbound lane until at least 6 p.m.
Northbound motorists spent most of the day Tuesday dealing with long delays, as the highway was completely closed to them for about seven hours, forcing all vehicles to exit at Route 22 in Aberdeen. Southbound traffic got moving at 9:15 a.m. Tuesday, about an hour after the accident, which Maryland State Police say involved only the truck, owned by Pilot Flying J.
Two of the three lanes for northbound traffic on I-95 were re-opened by about 3:45 p.m. Tuesday, Maryland Transportation Authority spokesperson Kelly Melhem said, but the third lane was still shut down for almost three additional hours.
The detour also caused major delays along Route 22 and Route 40, where traffic was directed before getting back onto I-95 in Cecil County beyond the Hatem Bridge.
The heavy traffic on the local roads also prompted Harford County Public Schools to advise parents of students attending schools in the Aberdeen and Havre de Grace areas to expect afternoon homebound school bus delays, according to the HCPS website.
On a Typical Tuesday, more than 29,000 vehicles travel northbound along the stretch of I-95 where the accident occurred, MDTA spokesperson Kelly Melhem said Wednesday, citing figures from October 2011.
Tanker ran off road, overturned
Maryland State Police initially said the tanker truck had been in a minor accident with a passenger vehicle. Wednesday, however, State Police spokesman Sgt. Marc Black said only the truck was involved.
Citing "eyewitnesses," Black said the tanker was traveling in the northbound middle lane when it crossed into the right lane and overturned.
According to photographs at the scene, the truck came to rest along the northbound shoulder, just before the entrance to the bridge.
Black said injuries to the driver, who has not been identified, were "minor."
"There have been fuel spills that have shut down [the highway], maybe not to this extent," Black said.
Black said the accident investigation is being handled by the State Police JFK Barrack in Perryville which patrols I-95 from Harford County to the Delaware line.
Maryland Transportation Authority and the Environmental Protection Agency responded to the crash, as did the Maryland Department of the Environment, Susquehanna Hose Company of Havre de Grace and Harford County Hazmat. The Coast Guard also responded.
Some minor collateral damage was reported.
"There was no immediate damage to the roadway, but the diesel will impact the asphalt in the long-term. We anticipate scheduling work to mill and repave that area, but not in the immediate future," Melhem said.
"We currently have the right lane closed in that area so MDE/EPA can remove contaminated soil," she added. "This lane closure is off-peak, and the lane will reopen before [Wednesday] evening rush hour."
"Before northbound I-95 was re-opened, the roadway was swept, dried and swept again," Melhem said. "Minor guardrail repairs also were made yesterday [Tuesday] evening."
"The Tydings Bridge sign also was damaged," Melhem said.
The Maryland Department of the Environment said Tuesday that it believed none of the diesel fuel spill got into the river, but placement of containment booms and other measures were taken just in case.
Pilot Flying J, the truck's owner, hired Lewis Environmental, from Delaware, to conduct clean up in the area, MDE spokesman Jay Apperson said Wednesday. Earlier, Apperson had said "the responsible party" would be paying for the cleanup and any associated costs.
About 4,200 gallons of fuel was "unaccounted for," Apperson said, an increase from an earlier MDE estimate of 3,500 gallons.
The contractor said it is still possible some diesel made it to the Susquehanna, Apperson said, "but we still don't see any indication that any fuel got to the river and we don't believe that any got there."
The truck had about 7,800 gallons of diesel on board, he said.
Soil excavation is continuing on the shoulder, where the diesel went into a grass swale and concrete culvert that feeds into a stormwater basin, Apperson said.
That process will take about two days and the soil will be taken to a handling facility in Pennsylvania or New Jersey, he said.
"There is an outfall from that basin that goes into a wooded floodplain that is about 90 feet below," Apperson continued. "It is a difficult area to access. Apparently you need a boat."
The contractor placed about 900 feet of maritime boom as a precaution, he said.
When the soil excavation is completed, the contractor will flush out the culvert and any fuel will go into the stormwater basin, where it will be vacuumed out, Apperson said. The basin will then be periodically checked for any more fuel, he added.
According to its website, Pilot Flying J of Knoxville, Tenn., operates truck and travel stops and is a bulk fuel supplier. The company operates the Pilot Travel Center at the I-95/Route 222 interchange in Perryville, on the other side of the bridge from where Tuesday's accident occurred.
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