The tanker truck carrying liquid asphalt ruptured Tuesday morning in Southbury, leaving the liquid oozing all over a busy street.
Officials say a truck carrying 5,800 gallons of liquid asphalt ruptured, sending the hot tar down the northbound lanes of busy North Main Street, near the Interstate 84 west exit 15 ramp.
Officials on the scene said the leak started about 4.5 miles away near Oxford, but the driver didn’t notice until he was headed toward the center of Southbury.
“It’s a mess,” said Doug Calderone, a Southbury resident who came to see the situation in person Tuesday afternoon.
Hot tar oozed out of a ruptured tanker truck stranded on Southbury’s North Main Street during the busy morning commute and continued to have an impact on drivers in the area into the evening. Northbound traffic snaked by in one lane, as crews worked quickly and carefully to remove the liquid asphalt pouring out at 300 degrees.
“Precautions were taken by the fire department with hoses and lines in place,” said Jeff Chandler, a supervisor for the Department of Energy an Environmental Protection’s Emergency Response Unit.
Chandler said the flammable material leaked out at a rate of 30 gallons per minute and spilled out toward storm drains. He said it was caught just in time, before it did any real damage to the environment.
“I think they should have caught it before it started leaking,” said witness Felix Renaud of Middlebury.
Chandler said crews are used to responding to these types of emergencies.
“Years and years of abuse of being heated up cooled down heated up cool common it is quite common actually that we have this style of truck that develops a fracture due to the stress of just bouncing down the road,” he said.
The Department of Transportation and DEEP built a berm with sand to sop up the mess and stop it from spreading.
“The catch basin is a tributary to the Housatonic River so it was very pertinent that we made sure we didn’t have any material getting into that catch basin network,” Chandler stated.
He went onto say that about five gallons of tar pooled into the bottom of that critical catch basin, but it would be cleaned out before it made into the tributaries that feed the Housatonic River.
That was Doug Calderone’s concern.
“Just because I fish in the streams around here and wanted to make sure it wasn’t going to damage any of the wildlife,” said Calderone.
The fractured tanker lost more than half the material it was carrying, about 3,000 gallons of liquid asphalt, according to Chandler.
“I was surprised by the quantity and how it would leak out so much,” Renaud said.
Crews were able to save the rest by unloading it into a vacuum truck.
Before they could fully reopen the road, heavy machinery collected the liquid asphalt that had solidified in the sand, leaving a layer of tar to be scrapped off the street.
Chandler estimated clean-up would cost $60,000.
The company that owns the truck, Gateway Terminal, is responsible for picking up the tab. NBC Connecticut reached out to the New Haven company but did not hear back.