UPDATE: One lane reopened on U.S. Highway 64 as fuel spill clean up continues

UPDATE: One lane reopened on U.S. Highway 64 as fuel spill clean up continues

May 17th, 2018 by Ben Benton in Breaking News

Workers reroute traffic away from the area where a tanker truck overturned into the Ocoee River in Polk County near the Tennessee Valley Authority Ocoee #1 dam on Wednesday, May 16, 2018, in Benton, Tenn.

Photo by C.B. Schmelter /Times Free Press.

Updated at 12:44 p.m. on Thursday, May 17, 2018.

Gallery: Ocoee River spill cleanup underway

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UPDATE: U.S. Highway 64 is still down to one lane at the site of the tanker truck crash and the environmental contractor working on the cleanup will reassess progress on Friday, according to a TDOT news release. Work may continue through the weekend.

During the work, the road will continue to be down to one lane and flaggers will assist with traffic control. 

ORIGINAL STORY: The westbound lane of U.S. Highway 64 through the Ocoee River Gorge in Polk County, Tennessee, has been reopened while the eastbound lane remains closed as clean up continues following Tuesday's tanker truck crash that spilled more than 5,000 gallons fuel into the water, Tennessee Department of Transportation spokeswoman Jennifer Flynn said this morning.

A crew from Chattanooga-based hazardous materials clean up company Marion Environmental Inc. "is trying their best to be done by tomorrow," Flynn said.

"If they don't get done tomorrow, they will open both lanes for the weekend then resume the lane closure next week" to wrap up the clean up, Flynn said. The company needs one lane for equipment and personnel to have room to work.

Crews finished repairs to the road surface and guardrail after the tanker trailer was removed from the river Wednesday, Flynn said. Travelers on Highway 64 should watch for crews in the area directing traffic as the clean up work continues, she said.

The eastbound lane should be cleared by 11 p.m. Friday, according to TDOT.

The accident occurred early Tuesday evening when the driver of the truck, Hixson, Tennessee, resident Glenn Morris, lost control while driving near mile marker 12.5. His truck, owned by Pilot Mountain, North Carolina-based Petroleum Transport Co. Inc., plummeted 40 feet down an embankment and rolled into the river, forcing the shut down of both lanes on Highway 64.

Morris sustained minor injuries, according to officials. He was taken to a hospital by family members.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials estimate that up to 5,000 gallons of diesel fuel and up to 200 gallons of gasoline were spilled from the tanker into the Ocoee River. The tanker contained approximately 4,000 gallons of gasoline and 4,000 gallons of diesel before it overturned, officials said.

Officials set up booms — devices that help contain hazardous materials spills —  as far as 2 miles downstream to contain the spilled fuel. An environmental cleanup group and state and federal officials worked Wednesday to remove it from the water.

Stay with the Times Free Press for updates on this story.

Contact staff writer Ben Benton at bbenton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6569. Follow him on Twitter @BenBenton or at www.facebook.com/benbenton1.


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