By J.R. Tidwell
CENTER POINT — Clean-up efforts continued Wednesday in Center Point at the site of a fuel spill that occurred Tuesday night.
The spill happened at 1800 Center Point Parkway.
“It was a mixture of gasoline and water that was spilled,” said Center Point Fire Marshal Brandon Self. “I don’t know if there is a way to measure the amount of fluid that was spilled. We know it was hundreds of gallons, not thousands. We know it was several hundred gallons for sure.”
According to Self the spill stemmed from a tractor trailer tanker that was being stored at Moore Oil Company. The tanker did not have a truck attached to it.
“When a fuel truck goes to a gas station and pumps fuel into the underground tanks, water tends to get into those tanks,” Self said. “Water is heavier than gasoline, so it goes to the bottom of the tanks, then they pump it out.
“When they do that it’s hard not to get some gasoline in with the water. It is industry standard to take that water to a recycling center to separate the liquids. That is what this container was holding. They were storing the fluid to take to recycle.”
According to Self it was this water in the stored fluid, combined with recent frigid temperatures, that led to the spill.
“The water expanded and caused an aluminum fitting on the tanker to rupture, that’s what caused the leak,” he said. “The fluid was probably 90 percent water, but it did have some gas. Of course, no one wants gasoline on the ground.”
Authorities from multiple agencies responded to the spill, including Birmingham Fire and Rescue, Center Point Fire and Rescue, the Jefferson County EMA and the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM).
“The first thing we had to do was make what was going on safe,” said Self. “We set up a perimeter and quarantined the area. We evacuated approximately 30 people, including residents and employees at local businesses.
“We set up our perimeter on Center Point Parkway from Polly Reed Road to 17th Avenue NW. We then used foam to put a blanket on the fluid to keep the vapors down and to slow the flow of gasoline. We tried to dam it up using long sponge-like devices to soak up the fluid to stop the runoff.
“Some of the fluid did get into the storm water system. Members of EMA, ADEM and fire personnel found were the fluid hadn’t gone yet then created a barrier. That’s what we did immediately.”
The next step involved finding the source of the leak and stopping it.
“We used a big seal, like an O-ring, and got the leak down to a trickle,” Self said. “We put a barrel under the leak to catch the fluid. Then we developed a plan with private engineers to begin the cleanup effort.”
A vacuum truck was used to siphon the fluid out of the storm system, and fans were used to vent the system to keep it from pressurizing.
“By the end of (Tuesday) night it was pretty much mitigated,” Self said. “Today we pumped water into the storm system while the vacuum continued to pick up fluid to rinse it out. By the end of the day (Wednesday) or tomorrow it will be completely clean.
Self said that all of the agencies involved, along with Moore Oil Company, have been working together to clean up the spill.
“The weather was the cause of it,” he said. “We will work toward not letting this happen again. Moore Oil Company has tried to make the situation right. Everyone is being cooperative, and everything has run smoothly. We are all trying to make it like it never happened.”