Gasoline odor has DEP crews searching for spilled fuel in Wallagrass

Posted June 07, 2011, at 5:29 p.m.
Last modified June 07, 2011, at 6:42 p.m.

WALLAGRASS, Maine — Officials with the Department of Environmental Protection were in Wallagrass again Tuesday after a resident reported smelling the odor of gasoline one week after a significant spill in the community.

A DEP spokesperson said that officials have started to see gas coming out of the ground and can smell it in some locations.

The spill took place last Tuesday, after a tractor trailer belonging to the John T. Noble trucking company of Caribou overturned on Route 11 after becoming unstable when it drifted close to the soft shoulder of the roadway.

The truck, driven by Joe Nichols, was hauling 8,000 gallons of gasoline for Daigle Oil Co. of Fort Kent at the time of the crash. An estimated 5,000 gallons spilled out and seeped into the ground when a tank was breached.

Nichols was slightly injured in the accident and treated at a nearby hospital.

Samantha Depoy-Warren, DEP spokesperson, said Tuesday that the DEP tested private wells in the area last week and found no contamination. Over the weekend, however, a resident reported the odor of gasoline in a ditch approximately a quarter of a mile away from the accident scene.

“We have been on site every day walking the ditch line and we hadn’t seen or smelled any odor, so this appears to be a new development,” she said. Finding some gas in ditches a quarter of a mile from the accident scene, however, “is good because it gives us clues to where we should check the bedrock to hopefully locate the remainder of the gas that was spilled.”

Officials have said that the gas could be in the bedrock above the water table or in another area. Eventually, gas in the bedrock will degrade.

Depoy-Warren said that the insurance company for John T. Noble has stepped up and hired a contractor to work on the investigation and environmental remediation at the site. They will finance the work.

Crews have installed surface water recovery systems to pull the detected gas away from the water and trap the fuel. Depoy-Warren said that crews will be drilling at the site where gas was found tomorrow to see if they can locate the larger pool of gas in the bedrock.

“We have installed signs to let people know about the spill,” she said. “The last thing we need is to have someone come by and toss a cigarette into the ditch and cause a major explosion.”

After the crash, crews worked  to control the gas vapors, and another truck arrived to pump the remaining fuel from the overturned tanker.

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