Another milk spill soaks Afton
For the second time in three months, a refrigerated truck has spilled its milk near Afton. Today's wreck occurred around 8am when the tanker overturned at the intersection of Critzer's Shop Road (Rt. 151) and Rt. 250. Steve Elliott, Albemarle County Fire and Rescue Battalion Chief, said the truck's driver was able to safely extricate himself from the vehicle. However, city and county officials remained at the scene in order to deal with the milk spill, which poses an environmental hazard, he added.
Elliot said that the truck dumped around 3,000 gallons of milk directly into Stockton Creek, a Rivanna River tributary which runs under Critzer's Shop Road at that intersection. With help from biologists at the state Department of Environmental Quality, Elliott learned just this morning that milk can become hazardous when it leaks into a water source, because multiplying bacteria use up oxygen in the water. Consequently, "Even a few hundred gallons of milk will kill living things in the water," he says, adding that he expects a substantial fish die-off as a result of this spill.
"We take environmental stuff pretty seriously because of what we have around here," he says, gesturing to the verdant surrounding landscape.
As soon as they learned of the spill, regional hazardous materials workers began setting up dams and pumps downstream. As of 1:30 this afternoon, teams had dammed the river about three miles from the accident at Ortman Road and were waiting for the milk to arrive. They expected the milk to have mixed with the water, but they said they would continue pumping water out of the creek until all the cloudiness was gone, a potentially lengthy process.
A Staunton-based cleanup company called Haz./ Mat. 2006 will assume responsibility for containment of the spill once city and county officials are finished with initial investigations. Company president Nellie Bayne says that the milky water would simply be pumped into a nearby field. "Milk is not hazardous as long as it's on land, and it won't even kill the grass," she says. "Probably won't smell any worse than that fertilizer they use," Elliott adds.
The driver may eventually face traffic violation and hazardous release charges, according to Bill Clark, an investigator with Albemarle County Fire and Rescue, who also notes that the driver's company could be charged for the work of all the hazardous materials teams.
The Afton area's last milk wreck happened February 6, 2007 when another milk truck toppled over at exit 99 on Afton Mountain. That driver was also not injured, and the wreck did not threaten a water source. But his 7,000 gallons of milk posed a whole different danger when it temporarily turned Rt. 250 into a frozen milk slick. #