Chassell FD quick action contained fuel spill: EPA

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette Crews work to remove soil Friday after the Feb. 3 fuel spill in Chassell Township. Removal of the soil and restoration of the site is expected to be complete by the end of the week, a USEPA official said Monday.

CHASSELL TOWNSHIP — Most of the contaminated soil from the site of the Feb. 3 fatal four-car accident in Chassell Township has been removed, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) on-site coordinator said Monday.

About 3,000 tons of contaminated soil had been removed as of Monday afternoon, said Ralph Dollhopf of the EPA. Another 500 are expected to be removed before backfilling begins.

The spilled fuel primarily affected the river banks on either side of the bridge, and the embankments around the approach to the bridge, Dollhopf said.

The fuel soaked into the soils around the base of the bridge and under the bridge on the south side.

“Once we determined that there was no fuel that got downstream under the ice, and once we recovered the fuel on top of the ice, then we turned our attention to excavating that soil,” he said.

About 15,000 gallons of fuel-water mixture have been recovered, with most of that water. A small amount of fuel seeped into the river but has been contained, Dollhopf said.

“We’re constantly tending it and recovering that water so no fuel can make its way downriver,” he said.

Excavation should be complete in another couple of days, Dollhopf said. By the middle of the week, they should begin restoring the areas along the river and start to demobilize equipment and workers.

“We’re still hoping by the end of this week, our activity here will come to a conclusion, and we’ll be able to have (Michigan Department of Transportation) reopen both lanes of the bridge and restore traffic patterns to normal,” Dollhopf said.

They continue to monitor air quality in the area. There has been no potential seen yet for the public to be affected.

Water testing results are not back yet from wells on three private properties near the bridge, Dollhopf said. Those will be continued to be monitored going forward.

A fuel tanker overturned on Feb. 3 after a car attempted to pass it on an icy road on U.S. 41 near the Sturgeon River.

Kenan Advantage Group, the parent company of Klemm Tank Lines, will continue to work with the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and the Western Upper Peninsula Health Department over time to make sure there is no impact from the spill.

“We don’t expect there to be any, but that’s DEQ’s jurisdiction and they’re already talking about how to go forward with that,” he said.

Dollhopf credited the Chassell Fire Department for its quick work on the day of the accident setting up containment booms to halt the spread of the fuel on the river.

“Their quick action, there’s no question it helped to avert a much more severe impact to the river,” he said. “The local community should really be proud of them. They and the Houghton County Emergency Management agency really did their job well.”