Cleanup process underway for asphalt spill near Everson
Cleanup continued Friday for a spill that dumped hot asphalt oil onto a road and yards near Everson Elementary School early Thursday.
The busy road – where Everson Goshen curved into Mead Avenue – was closed in both directions following the 4:44 a.m. rollover of a semitrailer.
The driver, Kellen Botten, of Stanwood, was allegedly speeding and was cited for negligent driving. The truck was headed to a job site in British Columbia.
Botten, 27, suffered only minor injuries.
The truck, registered to Washington Trucking of Arlington, was carrying about 6,800 gallons of asphalt oil. About two-thirds of the material spilled onto the road, which is part of state Highway 544, and oozed into nearby yards.
It congealed as it cooled off and stopped spreading, authorities said.
The road was reopened to traffic just before 7:30 p.m. Thursday, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation. It had been closed since 5:30 a.m. that day.
“The road was inspected this (Friday) morning and there is no damage from the spill,” Andrea Petrich, WSDOT spokeswoman, said. “The Department of Ecology contractor that was hired did a great job getting the road cleaned up.”
But it was closed again – and traffic detoured – on Friday as heavy equipment came in for the second phase of the cleanup.
The contractor, Ferndale-area Western Refinery Services Inc., spent Thursday helping the tow service get the truck upright and scraping the gooey oil – after adding sand to solidify the oil so the spill could be picked up – with an excavator, said Jerry Libolt, the company’s chief financial officer.
On Friday, the contractor’s crews moved on to cleaning the oil from the yards of three neighboring residences.
“It’s almost like hard asphalt now,” Libolt said. “It mostly went on one particular yard but it did affect a couple of others, too.”
Cleaning up the yards was expected to be completed Friday, and the road reopened that evening.
“We appreciate everyone’s patience while they clean up the mess,” said Chief Mel Blankers of Whatcom County Fire District 1, which responded to the crash.
The cleanup is being billed to the trucking company’s insurance.
The state Department of Ecology has said the spill wasn’t an environmental hazard, and Blankers has said no one reported having difficulty breathing.
Libolt repeated those assurances.
“Besides looking really bad and being a mess, it’s not a safety hazard as far as inhaling it or breathing it,” he said. “It’s a pretty safe oil. It’s what gets laid every day on the road.”
Highway 544 has several local designations, including Pole Road, Everson Goshen Road, Mead Avenue and Kale Road, but it is the main east-west route through Everson and Nooksack.