Second Tanker Spills Asphalt Into Poudre River

Crash Is Second In 9 Days In Canyon

For the second time in nine days, a tanker truck has crashed and spilled liquid asphalt into the Cache la Poudre River in northern Colorado.

The Larimer County Sheriff's Department said the tanker crashed about 9:37 a.m. Thursday, on Colorado 14 northwest of Fort Collins, dumping 5,000 gallons of asphalt about 3 miles downstream from the earlier incident.

"It almost split the tanker wide open," said Patrick Love, spokesman for the Poudre Fire Authority.

Sheriff's spokeswoman Eloise Campanella said the driver in Thursday's crash was transported to Poudre Valley Hospital with minor injuries.

About 200 to 300 gallons of diesel fuel also spilled into the river, she said.

The second tanker was working on the same state project as the previous tanker but it is a different hauler, Campanella said. It was carrying 6,135 gallons of tar westbound on Highway 14 when it lost control, broke through a guardrail on Colorado 14 and landed on its side.

Highway 14 is being repaved between the state fish hatchery and Cameron Pass, according to the Web site for the Colorado Department of Transportation.

CDOT suspended all work on the repaving project until the contractor, LaFarge West, shows it is taking action to prevent any more spills. The repaving project costs $5.5 million -- with $5.4 million covered by federal stimulus funds. The project began on June 29 and was supposed to be completed by September.

This asphalt was being hauled from a refinery in Denver, CDOT spokeswoman Stacey Stegman said. Typically, up to five tanker loads a day are being hauled to the plant site which is located on the west side of Cameron Pass, on Highway 14 just west of Gould.

The driver of the second tanker was identified as John Morris, 44, of Rawlins, Wyo., who was working for Transtank of Greeley, Colo. He was cited for careless driving.

LaFarge contracts with Transtank as a subcontractor for the hauling of the asphalt. The drivers involved in these two accidents worked for two different companies leased by Transtank, CDOT said.

Authorities estimated that it would take eight hours to remove the tanker from the river and they were right. Two cranes lifted the tanker from the river at about 5 p.m.

Emergency crews placed absorbent booms downstream of the site to attempt to prevent the materials from traveling down the river. But the asphalt has sunk to the bottom of the river making it more difficult to remove, the Environmental Protection Agency said.

Colorado Highway 14 was closed between the turnoff to Stove Prairie to Ted's Place due to the crash. It was reopened at 6 p.m., after the tanker was removed.

The Poudre River itself will be closed for recreational use from mile marker 113 to mile marker 119, until the water is deemed safe. It is recommended that any fishing below that point be catch and release only, the Larimer County Sheriff's Office said.

Based on where the diversions are located, Fort Collins water should be safe, Campanella said.

Federal environmental officials said most of the asphalt and diesel fuel from the latest accident was contained quickly because staffers were already in the area cleaning up from the earlier spill. They don't expect any long-term effects to the river or fish. The EPA will remain at the site for several days to remove the asphalt.

The cities of Fort Collins and Greeley both draw water from the Cache la Poudre and neither has reopened its intake valves since the earlier spill. Officials with both cities said there's no danger of water shortages.

On Aug. 25, a truck driver suffered minor injuries when the tanker he was driving flipped and spilled about 5,000 gallons of asphalt into the river. That driver was also cited for careless driving.

To assist in cleaning up that incident in August, water was released Thursday morning from Joe Wright Reservoir into the Poudre River. Had that water arrived, it would have quadrupled the amount of water (CFS) running through Thursday's incident, greatly complicating operations. However, North Poudre Irrigation Company was able to divert the flow through the Monroe Tunnel.

Officials are considering how the accident will affect use of the Poudre River during the Labor Day Weekend -- traditionally one of the busier times of use in Poudre Canyon.

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