Absorbent booms still float on the surface of the now-swollen Little Lotts Creek near Georgia Highway 46 and U.S. Highway 301 South.
In January, a tanker carrying 9,000 gallons of gasoline lost a third to half of its load after a crash.
The driver, Ricky Byron Bryant, 56, of Moore Road in Vidalia, was charged with following too closely after his tanker slammed into a pickup truck and a “bobtail” tractor trailer, which was traveling without the trailer, on Jan. 23.
Bryant was traveling north on Highway 301 South, approaching Highway 46 and Lotts Creek, when he collided with the pickup truck, driven by Sharon Furman, 28, of Church Street in Claxton. Furman was following Charles Eric Williams, 38, of Rosemary Street in Claxton, who was having mechanical issues with his bobtail tractor, Georgia State Patrol Capt. Kirk McGlamery said.
Bryant’s tanker also struck Williams’ vehicle. The tanker overturned as it struck a guard rail on a bridge over Lotts Creek, spilling what Environmental Protection Agency on-scene coordinator Timothy Neal estimated to be between 3,000 and 5,000 gallons of gasoline.
Since then, long white tubular booms have floated on the creek’s waters, absorbing any fuel that might have been left behind, he said.
The absorbent booms are replaced periodically and will likely be left in the creek “through several high-water events,” he said.
Bulloch County Public Safety Director Ted Wynn said he spoke to EPA officials at the time of the crash, and they informed him then that the booms might be left in the water “for several months” until it is certain that no fuel that might have soaked into the soil near the creek would reach water and be spread downstream.
At the time of the crash, he said, “The EPA advised me that this will be an extended operation. So far, they are confident they have it contained.”
Absorbent pads soaked up the gasoline floating on the surface of the water, but the majority of the gasoline soaked into soil beneath the bridge, Wynn said.
Receptor trenches and absorbent materials were used to remove the bulk of the spill, and efforts continue to make sure the location is safe and won’t harm the environment.
“Gasoline is very light in petroleum and evaporates very quickly,” EPA’s Neal said. “The emergency phase is over, and we feel in conjunction with (the Georgia Environmental Protection Division) they (cleanup contractors) have it under control. We are now into long-term monitoring and will continue to apply absorbent pads” and other precautionary measures.
The booms are “replaced with fresh ones when needed,” he said.
Recent heavy rainfall could wash some of the remaining fuel from the soil into the water, Neal said, adding that the booms in place will catch the fuel.
The spill won’t have any significant impact on the Lotts Creek environment and won’t affect the Ogeechee River, into which the creek empties, at all, he said.
Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at (912) 489-9414.