Overturned Tanker Yields Large Oil Spill Near California Dam, Cleanup Needed

March 25, 2020

A tanker truck overturned down an embankment, spilling up to 6,000 gallons of crude oil into a river that flows into a dam and reservoir near the city of Santa Maria, authorities said.

The driver was no injured and the cause of the single-vehicle crash on State Route 166 on Sunday was under investigation, said Santa Barbara County Fire Capt. Nikki Stevens.

He said crews were racing to stop the oil that spilled into the Cuyama River from reaching Twitchell Dam and reservoir, which provides flood control and water conservation to the region on the Central Coast.

They constructed a dirt berm and threw a boom – essentially a floating fence – into the water to contain the oil. Additionally, Stevens said, they placed large pipes at the bottom of the river to keep uncontaminated water flowing to the dam while they use pads to absorb the floating oil slick.

Time was of the essence because rain was in the forecast for Sunday.

“The dirt berm is not going to withstand running water,” Stevens said. “They’re working as aggressively as they can to clean this up.”

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