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Lawsuit filed against R&L Carriers for diesel spill that contaminated waterways

R&L Carriers
Posted at 5:36 PM, Mar 15, 2022

A lawsuit has been filed against R&L Carriers Inc. accusing the company of negligence in a diesel spill that leaked into nearby Dutch Creek and killed 2,000 aquatic animals.

Duane Weyand, a spokesman for Clinton County Emergency Management, said residents reported a fuel spill to the Wilmington Fire Department on March 6. Zackory Adams, the plaintiff in the lawsuit, said his wife called officials when they noticed an oil emulsion in Dutch Creek.

Adams said he could smell fuel outside his home on Gurneyville Road the previous day.

"The smell of diesel fuel hit my face immediately — to the point where it gave me an instant headache," Adams said.

Adams filed the lawsuit on Monday, which names R&L Carriers and two John Does as defendants.

"The negligent and reckless release of the fuel has caused significant harm to the surrounding environment and the properties adjoining Dutch Creek and other connected waterways," the suit alleges.

Adams is suing on behalf of all property owners and residents impacted by the Dutch Creek contamination, the suit said.

Steve Renninger with the EPA said a tank that holds up to 1 million gallons of diesel fuel was cleaned earlier in the week. All bolts were not fully secured when crews refilled the tank, resulting in a "medium spill." The EPA calculated 23,000 gallons of fuel was released in the spill. Renninger said a large percentage was caught in the secondary containment around the tank, and some was released to Dutch Creek about a quarter-mile away.

The lawsuit states the leak happened as a result of employee negligence, after employees — the John Does named in the lawsuit — did not properly secure the bolts required to fully shut the tank, according to the lawsuit.

"As a direct result of the R&L employees' failure to secure the bolts, on or about March 3, 2022, at least 23,000 gallons of the 188,000 gallons of fuel contained in the tank leaked out into the surrounding area, including the Dutch Creek waterway," reads the lawsuit.

Two days then passed before the leak was discovered, but by then the creek and neighboring areas were already contaminated.

Renninger said crews have established eight containment points up to 3.5 miles downstream of the spill location. Officials said recent rain did impact the containment, with Renninger saying he identified an oil sheen and slight odor where the Todd Fork stream meets Little Miami River in Morrow. That sheen is nonrecoverable

Renninger said R+L is paying for the cleanup.

Ohio Department of Natural Resources confirmed reports of dead wildlife as a result of the spill. Around 2,000 fish, crayfish and frogs were killed.

"(In) every sense of the word you can imagine, it's a nightmare," Adams said. "All the wildlife that we planned to enjoy is gone. Erased."