It was a perfect storm Tuesday for safety crews in the city.
A tanker truck carrying diesel fuel overturned about 1 p.m. on the state Route 711 connector on-ramp from Interstate 680, spilling thousands of gallons of fuel into the city’s sewer system and closing both highways during Tuesday’s rush hour.
While I-680 and the ramps from Interstate 80 to I-680 southbound and from state Route 11 to I-680 southbound reopened about 10 p.m. Tuesday, the I-680 southbound ramp to Route 11 northbound and the Route 711 southbound ramp to I-680 southbound will remain closed at least through Wednesday afternoon, according to the Ohio Department of Transportation District 4.
After being cut from the vehicle around 2:15 p.m., the driver was taken to a hospital, and he was in stable condition Tuesday night.
The diesel fuel spilled from a puncture in the tank and flowed downhill around the 711 on-ramp into a sewage drain. The Mahoning County HazMat team arrived to control the leaking.
Fire Chief John J. O’Neill Jr. said that a truck from Lyden Oil came in and pumped out 6,000 of the 8,000 gallons from the truck.
A few years ago when a tanker truck crashed in the same area of roadway, all 8,000 gallons were spilled.
By about 10 p.m., the fire department was still getting calls from residents near Salt Springs Road who smelled gas. The department was checking those reports, but only one, on Argo Street, showed a
At the time of Tuesday’s accident Youngstown’s public-works department didn’t take any chances and poured thousands of gallons of water into the spilled diesel fuel to dilute any that entered the city’s sewer system, said Charles Shasho, deputy director of the public works department.
“We flushed it downstream” of the Salt Springs Road and the Division Street area, he said.
Shortly after the accident, flames were spotted at a Division Street house but were quickly extinguished.
Battalion Capt. Fred DeLuca said the basement of the home, which was directly below the accident, had filled with fumes.
Adding to the mayhem was a 3 p.m. two-car crash on the corner of Rayen and Fifth avenues, which sent two women to the hospital — one in critical condition, police said. First responders, including some from Austintown, were on the scene of that accident.
Crews had little time to rest.
For several hours Tuesday afternoon, firefighters, police officers and Mahoning County deputy sheriffs went door-to-door in the West Side neighborhoods near Division Street, warning residents about the possibility of fuel in the sewer.
“It’s going to be a long night,” one firefighter said.
Well into the evening, Youngstown firefighters continued opening fire hydrants, working west to east downtown on Federal Street. Trucks cordoned off blocks as the streets flooded with hydrant water. DeLuca said downtown buildings were filling with diesel fumes.
Clark Jones, director of Mahoning County’s Emergency Management Agency, said people were advised to evacuate along Division Street, Waverly Avenue and surrounding streets, but many were reluctant to do so.
Some likely don’t want to leave their pets, he said.
Chaney High School was set up as a temporary shelter for those who needed it, with the American Red Cross offering assistance. But O’Neill said when no one arrived at the school by 9 p.m., he shut it down. The Red Cross will be able to help people who need shelter on an individual basis.
Because some of the diesel fuel from the 8,000-gallon tanker spilled into the Mahoning River, booms were placed in the water to try to contain it, Jones said.
Because diesel is lighter than water, it floats on the surface and the booms are used to keep it from moving downstream.
Raymond Beiersdorfer, a professor of geological and environmental sciences at Youngstown State University, said diesel is considered toxic because it causes cell damage.
“Studies done with mice where the mice drink the diesel-Contaminated water show that it’s toxic at very low concentrations,” he said.
Studies have also found that diesel-contaminated water kills plankton living in it, the professor said.
At the accident scene, wreckers were used to right the truck so it could be moved out of the area, and Sun Pro of Akron was called in to handle cleanup of the roadway.
Councilman Michael Ray, D-4th, said residents he spoke with were happy with the response, and he thought there was good collaboration among city police, Mahoning County HazMat and others who responded to the scene.
Karen McCoy moved to an Austintown apartment about two years ago, leaving her home on Elberen Street empty. She came back to Elberen on Tuesday to visit neighbors and was surprised by what she found.
“They’re advising people who have gas in their homes to shut off the pilot light,” she said, adding that it was a struggle to get to the
neighborhood with the road closures.
McCoy said she was taking her former neighbors to her Austintown apartment to spend the night.
A few streets nearby, Marcy Dickey was receiving similar instructions.
“We were told to shut off the pilot light, open the upstairs windows and mainly keep the air flowing. We have to watch for the smell of gas,” Dickey said.
Dickey stood on her lawn talking to her neighbor, Sam Vittorio.
Vittorio said he wasn’t bothered by the precautions or road closures, but that “every couple of years there’s a bad accident there.”
He’s right: In 2010, a motorist clipped a pole and kicked it down on I-680 near the southbound 711 entrance. A few months later, an overturned truck dumped debris on I-680.
In 2009, a man was ejected from his truck at the interchange and in 2007, a man was killed in a two-car head-on crash on 711 near the I-680 ramp.
And on March 29, 2006, a nearly identical fuel spill occurred at the interchange. Then, the gasoline did get into the sewer system, forcing the evacuation of houses of Randolph and Division street area and of Amedia Plaza and other downtown premises, according to
The interchange ramp was closed for nine days for cleanup after 8,500 gallons of gasoline was spilled.
That truck was operated by Wolf’s Run Transport, which eventually paid $12,250 total to the Mahoning and Trumbull county Hazmat teams to pay for the cleanup work. Wolf’s Run’s insurance company paid $50,000 to Youngstown to pay for police overtime and other city services from the fire, water and street departments.
Though the costs of Tuesday’s wreck aren’t yet known, Jones said HazMat, the city and any other agencies that responded to the scene can bill the company, Sines Inc. of Painesville.
“The clock started ticking on the company’s expense account when the accident happened,” he said.
O’Neill said that in 2006, Wolf’s Run was charged for water used in hydrant flushing.
Ohio Department of Transportation spokesman Justin Chesnic said he was not sure if ODOT posted any additional warning signs for the sharp curve after that accident.
Chesnic said in general the interchange “is not a problem area for crashes.”
This year, ODOT made an agreement with Youngstown to clear that portion of 711 of snow and ice, Chesnic said.
Although it snowed Tuesday, Chesnic said he was told by safety officials that the crash, which trapped the truck driver inside the cabin for more than an hour, was not weather-related.
Contributors: Staff writers Ashley Luthern, Denise Dick, Robert Guttersohn and David Skolnick