By Heidi Zemach for SCN –
A Shoreside Petroleum Inc. fuel delivery truck, towing a second trailer tanker, carrying a combined total of almost 10 thousand gallons of diesel fuel, slid off an icy dirt turnoff off Seward Highway near mile 25 Thursday afternoon, Jan. 8 opposite Trail Lake, and landed on their sides. No one was hurt or injured in the accident, and there was no spill, said Russell Cooper, Shoreside’s general manager. After the diesel was carefully removed from the trucks, they were eventually righted and safely removed. Trail Lake was not affected, he said. Emerald Alaska, a professional wrecking company, stood by and helped Shoreside in the operations that followed, and the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation closely monitored operations as well.
The situation was a significant concern to their agency, the rollover being so close to Trail Lake, and having nearly 10 thousand gallons of diesel fuel on board, said ADEC’s environmental program manager Steve Russell.
The trucks had been heading southbound when the driver slowed down, and moved off the road onto a dirt turnout to allow some vehicles that were behind him to pass. In this case, being courteous wasn’t the right move, he said. The main part of the highway was wet and relatively well sanded, but there was glare ice in the turnoff that the trucks encountered causing them to slide off the road and topple. One of the two tanks was carrying an estimated 3,000 gallons, and the other tank had 7,000 gallons of diesel fuel on board, Russell said.
Fortunately, it was a very low speed rollover, with very little forward motion once the trucks rolled, said an ADEC official who arrived on scene to monitor the aftermath and report back to Russel. In the end he estimated that the tanks had spilled no more than one, or possibly a few gallons of fuel. Some motor oil was spilled directly onto the icy surface as the main truck was being righted, and that was cleaned up and removed by Shoreside’s response, said the DEC representative. There was also a valve on the top of the trailer that “wept a bit of product,” he said in an email reporting to his higher ups, but a “duck pond had been placed underneath the area before he arrived.
The tank being towed also came unattached during the rollover, and the tongue pushed forward several feet under the truck’s cargo tank. It took a lot of rigging by the tow company to get them separated without compromising the truck’s tank. A wrecking crew and Emerald Alaska from Anchorage was there with absorbent and pans to be used as needed, and stood by as Shoreside performed the fuel removal operation, and the truck’s removal. Holes were cut on high spots on the trucks’ sides to allow their hoses to slowly remove approximately 750 gallons. They left approximately 30 gallons in the trailer before righting it.
Alaska Department of Transportation, or ADOT staff did an outstanding job of sanding the work area and the road in front of them, according to the DEC, and although the action blocked one lane of traffic for a while, the highway never had to be closed.
(Correction: Mike Rule, the DOT foreman at the Seward/Crown Point shop, said there are no slow passing lanes in that stretch of road, before the Trail Lake Bridge, and that the truck had gone onto the dirt turnoff, which had not been sanded by DOT. “Our first line of business was sanding the highway,” he said. He cautioned drivers from pulling off the roadway in these weather conditions. Drivers may also call 511 for road conditions when travelling)