River spill/ Officials continue investigation

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 26, 2006

The Selma Times-Journal

Diesel fuel did indeed spill into the Alabama River Thursday evening, according to Mark Rouleau, assistant district supervisor with the state Department of Conservation.

How much fuel is yet to be determined.

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“We figure anywhere from 400 gallons to 9,000 gallons went into the river,” Rouleau said on Friday.

Rouleau said the spill occurred approximately 17 miles up river from Selma at a farm near Gardner’s Island.

“We contacted the farmer where it originated at,” Rouleau said. “He claimed if he lost anything it was probably around 400 gallons. However, his tank had the capacity to hold 9,000 gallons so we don’t know how much is in the river.”

Representatives from the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) were trying to verify the exact amount on Friday.

On Thursday, Rouleau received a complaint phone call regarding the spill.

“(The caller) claimed that the slick was about two miles long,” Rouleau said. “I called ADEM and ADEM sent their investigator from Montgomery.”

The investigator then met with one of Rouleau’s officers and “they got on the river and followed the slick.”

“In the meantime, Chief Corley out of the Craig Fire Department flew the river and advised where it was located and he stated that the slick was approximately four miles long and was from bank to bank on the river,” Rouleau said.

Rouleau said the slick traveled 14 miles down river to Globe Metallurgical or Alamet. “When it got around to Alamet, we were talking to the core engineers and they stopped the flow from the dam. So we hoped that we slowed down the movement of the slick until we can get some help here,” he said.

“Good news is we have not found or noticed a fish kill at all. We have found no damage – especially long term damage – to aquatic plants or vegetation or to wildlife so we’re in good shape there.”

Rouleau said EPA and ADEM teams were scheduled to pull water at noon Friday, a process that makes the fuel dissipate.

“There should be no harm to drinking water,” he said. “But we may have a smell for a pretty good while just cause diesel fuel stinks, but as far as damage – no problem.”

EPA called in a professional toxic spill clean-up crew at 2 a.m. Friday. After surveying the river waters, Rouleau said the clean-up crew concluded there was a small amount of fuel in the river and the problem “would just take care of itself.”

The clean-up crew met again at 7 a.m. Friday to search for fuel pockets.

“They found no pockets,” Rouleau said. “They will continue to monitor it.”