DIBOLL, TX (KTRE) – It is now a matter of "hurry up and wait" following the containment and initial clean-up of a tanker spill at the Diboll Depot Saturday night.
"The spill turned out to be less severe than was first thought. Liquid asphalt is transported at a temperature of 300 degrees, so it is very hot. In order to cool it down and get it to a state where we can completely remove it, we've covered the affected area with dirt to help cool and solidify or harden it," said Richard Lenius, District Manager for VLS Hazmat. "Once it cools and hardens, we will dig it up, probably on Monday or Tuesday."
A tanker trucker, driven by Earnest Pearson, 29, of Houston, was making a turn into the Diboll Depot off of Highway 59 southbound when he apparently turned too fast for the size of the load on his truck and the weight shifted, according to the investigating Diboll police officer.
The tanker truck overturned in the parking lot of the Chevron Station on the northside of Diboll. The tanker had been carrying a liquid oil type substance, a type of asphalt ready mix, or tar pitch that bonds the gravel used for roadwork, according to investigators. It is believed as much as 3000 (new figure) gallons of the substance leaked from the tanker into the roadway, causing the southbound lanes of highway 59 to be closed.
The closest source of possible contamination was "a dried up creek bed," however, emergency personnel were able to keep it from spreading to that area. The substance is not believed to be flammable. Haz-mat crews have been called in to handle the clean up. Crews have contained the spill and are now covering the escaped substance with dirt in an effort to cool it. Once the substance is cooled and it hardens, they will dig it up and dispose of it and replace the affected area with fresh dirt, according to investigators.
All lanes of traffic on Highway 59 are now back open. Pearson is said to have picked up the load in Shreveport and was making a stop in Diboll on his way back to Houston. The tanker truck belongs to EHC Trucking out of Houston.
Pearson suffered a broken arm and hit his head during the accident. He was transported to Lufkin Memorial Health System for treatment. No other injuries were reported. No other vehicles were involved.
Pending the completion of the investigation, Pearson could be cited for making an unsafe turn, according to investigators.
Diboll police responded to the call around 7:19 Saturday night. Diboll EMS, along with Lufkin EMS and Hazmat were able to contain the scene until another hazmat crew whose corporate office is in Longview relieved local emergency personnel. The haz-mat team is expected to spend the next 48-72 hours doing the final sweep and cleanup.
Other agencies involved were the Angelina County Sheriff's office and the Department of Public Safety.