Valve mishap spills oil at Taylor Creek |

Valve mishap spills oil at Taylor Creek

Amanda Fehd

An estimated two gallons of an oil product spilled Wednesday into Taylor Creek after a valve malfunctioned on a subcontractor’s truck that was resurfacing Highway 89, according to a Caltrans spokesman.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Lahontan Water Board, California Department of Fish and Game and the U.S. Forest Service were on the scene Thursday morning to survey for damage.

Visual surveys indicate no fish have died and none of the oil made it to Lake Tahoe, according to Jere Harper, emergency spill response coordinator for the Forest Service in Tahoe.

A Forest Service visitor center and $1 million fish viewing chamber lie downstream from the spill, which occurred on federal property.

Water samples were taken and will be tested for toxicity.

A drain pipe in the parking lot leads directly to the creek. The pipe was deteriorating and some of the sealant leaked out onto the hillside.

In total, 50 to 100 gallons of asphalt sealant with the consistency of blackstrap molasses spilled from the truck at a SnoPark parking lot used as a staging area for the resurfacing work.

Containment materials are always required and laid on the ground as a precaution during such work, so the amount of spill that made it to the creek was minimized, said Caltrans spokesman Mark Dinger.

Robert Erlich, environmental scientist with Lahontan Water Board, surveyed the scene Thursday and said they are waiting for a report from Caltrans.

“We suspect this is a violation and will consider enforcement action, but at this point we need more information,” Erlich said. “These projects should occur without discharging products like this into the creek. While there were some BMPs in place, there was also some failure. The BMPs in place were not adequate to prevent a spill to the creek.” BMP stands for “best management practices.”

The subcontractor, Valley Slurry Seal Company of West Sacramento, followed protocol and called the appropriate response agencies immediately, Dinger said.

The contractor is required to have a hazmat team on call, and a company from Carson City responded Wednesday to the spill.

The hazmat team was at the scene Thursday morning removing rocks on the hillside that had been covered in sealant, Harper said.

“The release happened on federal property so we are going to make sure they clean it up,” he said.

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