EPA: 23,000 gallons of diesel fuel spilled in Clinton County, 2,000 animals killed

Spill started at R+L Carriers
Crews work on oil spill in Dutch Creek
Posted at 11:18 PM, Mar 07, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-09 00:01:16-05

WILMINGTON, Ohio — Clinton County officials said multiple agencies are "working at a feverous pace" to clean up a fuel spill in Wilmington.

Duane Weyand, a spokesman for Clinton County Emergency Management, said residents reported a fuel spill to the Wilmington Fire Department Saturday afternoon. Zackory Adams 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.

Fire officials were able to locate the spill at 600 Gilliam Road, the address for freight shipping company R+L Carriers. EMA Director Tom Breckel said they contacted R+L, who called the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

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 EPA, U.S. Coast Guard personnel and additional contractors have been working to contain the spill. Renninger said R+L is paying for the cleanup.

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.

The Ohio River Sanitation Commission is monitoring the situation and sampling the water. Renninger said downstream drinking water intakes have been notified, but there is no danger at this point.

Residents who live near R+L and use private drinking water wells can contact the Clinton County Health District to test their water. Matt Johannes, the health district's environmental director,
said he would not let any animals or children swim in Dutch Creek at this time.

"We're still doing a response, so right now you should be limiting your activities in Dutch Creek itself," Breckel said. "I understand we're not quite to the summertime, but as we start getting there, we can get back to enjoying Dutch Creek, but for right now, the folks need to utilize common sense. Let's stay away from it until the entire response is done."

Renninger said the cleanup will last for "several more days." Any possible fines would come at a later time.

Weyand said the 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."

Though R+L is paying for the cleanup, Adams said they are leaving neighbors with nothing but the smell of diesel.

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