Crews cleaning up a spill of thousands of gallons of diesel fuel in a natural riparian bird sanctuary near Old Town have found no signs of ill effects to the fauna in the area, authorities said Tuesday.
“We’ve had U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service out here along with California Fish and Wildlife to evaluate the wildlife impacts, and we’ve determined we don’t have any wildlife impacts at this time, (and) nor are we impacting any endangered species or their habitat,” said Robert Wise, an emergency-response coordinator with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The 3,700-gallon spill occurred early Friday evening, when a tanker truck overturned on the Morena Boulevard offramp from westbound Interstate 8 in Mission Valley.
Though the site of the minor-injury crash — over an environmentally sensitive wetland environment alongside the San Diego River — was unfortunate, the outcome could have been considerably worse, authorities told reporters this afternoon during a briefing near the accident site.
“Most of the spill came off the bridge and landed in the dirt,” Wise said. “A small amount relative to the 3,700 gallons actually landed in the river.”
The fuel that did wind up in the water mostly drifted upstream due to west winds, said Kris Wiese of the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.
“Eighty-five percent of that was recovered within the first day of our response, which is pretty phenomenal — very, very good,” Wiese said.
A containment boom has kept nearly all the pollution from drifting down the waterway, officials said. What got into the river essentially amounted to a surface chemical “sheen” that should evaporate rapidly once the overcast weather of the past several days gives way to some sustained sunshine, according to Wiese.
The quick removal of the contamination appears to have prevented any significant harm to the animals that live in and alongside the river, the state official said.
“We haven’t seen any ducks or any other wildlife in the water that (have been) impacted,” he said. “There are turtles swimming around in there. We’ve seen no dead fish.”
Authorities also have found no serious pollution threats to groundwater stores that could wind up in public drinking water, Wiese added.
The cleanup project is expected to take at least another week. Friars Road, which has been closed in the area since shortly after the accident occurred, likely will partially reopen within several days, officials said.
–City News Service