Cistern spill near Tutu snarls traffic for hours
Published: September 29, 2012
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ST. THOMAS - When black sludge from Advance Auto Parts' cistern started rolling down the hill toward the Weymouth Rhymer Highway and the center of Tutu on Friday, government officials treated it like a hazardous material spill.
"It was called in as oil, so we didn't question it, we proceeded with an emergency response," Department of Planning and Natural Resources Division of Environmental Protection Terminal Facility Coordinator Kent Bernier Jr. said at the scene.
Traffic through Tutu was snarled for hours as the spill was cleaned up. V.I. Police officers helped direct traffic until the clean-up was finished, about 4 p.m.
Bernier said Advance Auto Parts, formerly Western Auto, had hired Big Lee Cistern Services to clean the store's cistern. The work began about 9 a.m., he said.
According to the police blotter, a record of 911 calls made, a fuel spill was reported at 12:20 p.m. Friday at Tutu Park Mall.
DPNR got the call reporting an oil spill in Tutu about 12:36 p.m., and DPNR enforcement officers and other first responders arrived on the scene soon after, Bernier said.
The sludge was running down the side road behind Merchant's Commercial Bank, where the old Midas sign still stands, and toward the Rhymer Highway, Bernier said.
He mobilized a dump truck full of sand and gravel, which was dumped on top of the sludge to absorb any hazardous material or oil. The sand then was shoveled back into the dump truck with a backhoe.
Bernier shoved absorbent, filtering booms into the nearest storm drain, and firefighters took a firehose to the road. The roadway was hosed clean, and the boom protected any material from getting into the storm drain, Bernier said.
The truckload of saturated sand and gravel was taken by Big Lee Cistern Services to be treated, cleaned and ultimately disposed of.
"DPNR will be monitoring the disposal," Bernier said.
Bernier said it is likely a notice of violation will be issued to either the cistern service or the store for the spill.
- Contact reporter Aldeth Lewin at 714-9111 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.