Big rig crash sends diesel fuel into Donner Creek | SierraSun.com

Big rig crash sends diesel fuel into Donner Creek

Renee Shadforth
Sierra Sun

A tractor trailer that crashed near the agriculture station on Monday set off yet another chemical spill into a Truckee waterway.

Michael McDaniel, 46 of Shelton, Wash., was driving his big rig westbound on Interstate 80 during Monday’s snow storm when he reached congestion near the inspection station. He attempted to avoid the halted traffic by swerving left, according to California Highway Patrol reports. The truck jackknifed and collided with a stopped Ford Expedition. The impact pushed the Expedition into a Mercedes Benz, and the Benz collided with a stopped Peterbilt big rig.

McDaniel’s truck veered into the cement median, coming to rest on top of the barrier and puncturing his 110-gallon fuel tank.

Two of the five passengers in the Expedition had minor injuries, and the 65-year-old driver of the Mercedes suffered moderate injuries. All were taken to Tahoe Forest Hospital for treatment, said CHP reports. McDaniel and the driver of the Peterbilt were not injured.

Though the road was slushy and icy Monday morning, CHP investigators are unsure whether the conditions contributed to McDaniel losing control, or if he didn’t notice the halted traffic and couldn’t slow down quick enough, said Kirk Bromell, CHP information officer.

McDaniel’s fuel tanks released more than 100 gallons of diesel fuel onto Interstate 80, said CHP reports.

“Apparently, (McDaniel) had just filled up with 110 gallons of diesel, and he lost all of it,” said Janet Mann, Nevada County Environmental Health officer. “It went in both directions on the interstate, and it got into Donner Creek.”

Environmental health officials don’t know how much of the fuel ran into the creek, a tributary to the Truckee River, Mann said.

At the scene of the accident, Caltrans dumped sand onto the spill area to try and absorb as much fuel as possible until environmental cleanup crews arrived.

Crews from H2O Environmental ” a Reno-based company contracted by Caltrans ” set up hard booms to protect the creek from fuel runoff and set up oil-absorbant material around the area of the spill, said Greg Scyphers, general manager of the company.

“The waterway is protected and any additional runoff will be contained,” he said. “At this point it’s just an issue of digging out that dirty soil and putting new soil in.”

The Monday accident contributed to the third chemical spill reported in the Truckee area in less than two months.

In late March, a FedEx truck spill a 350-gallon container of the chemical solvent heptane on Interstate 80, closing a 60-mile stretch of the highway for hours, and spilling the solvent into Donner Creek.

On April 1, a fuel pipeline leak was discovered on Donner Summit, which has leaked an undetermined amount of jet and diesel fuel into the upper reaches of Summit Creek.

“It seems like there’s been quite a few (chemical incidents) in the last month or so,” Mann said. “What do they say? Things come in threes.”