Gas spill cleanup continues on Hwy 108/120

By Chris Caskey, The Union Democrat March 12, 2013 09:56 am

Highway 108/120, between the Montezuma Road Junction and Yosemite Junction, has reopened to traffic, but work to clean up a large fuel spill will continue through the month, according to Caltrans.

Highway crews are still replacing contaminated dirt with clean earth along the busy thoroughfare, and are still working on some related road repairs. Once finished, about 2,500 cubic-yards of dirt will have been removed and replaced around and under the road, which was the scene of an overturned big rig carrying gasoline on Feb. 20.

Caltrans spokeswoman Angela DaPrato said on Monday that work could continue through March, and drivers could see some minor traffic delays as crews complete a job that led to 10 days of partial and complete closure of Highway 108/120.

DaPrato said the cost of the cleanup is still unknown, though the work is being paid for by trucking company Williams Tank Lines.

One of the company’s trucks carrying gasoline overturned early in the morning on Feb. 20, the day after a cold storm brought low snow to the Mother Lode causing havoc on the roadways.

The truck spilled about 1,800 gallons of fuel onto the road and into the surrounding soil, which required the ongoing cleanup.

“We’re just trying to make sure traffic can go on as usual,” DaPrato said.

Because the contaminated earth was also under the road, repairs included lifting up the asphalt. DaPrato said crews must still install rumble strips, striping and other markers on the highway before the work is complete.

Tuolumne County led cleanup with hazardous materials equipment, and the California Highway Patrol handled traffic control as drivers were re-routed through Chinese Camp. DaPrato said California Fish and Game and the Department of Water Resources have also monitored the site since the spill.

After the road reopened last week, Rob Kostlivy, of Tuolumne County Environmental Health, said the size of the spill and the possibility of it reaching groundwater broadened the project’s scope.

“That complicated a lot of the remediation issues, which prolonged the actual timeframe in which we were able to dig out all the contaminated soil that was there,” Kostlivy said.