PORT AUX BASQUES – On Wednesday, Apr. 21, the Channel-Port aux Basques Volunteer Fire Department deployed their Regional Hazardous Materials Team (HazMat) to an emergency on the Trans Canada Highway, near the Starlight Trail.
“A tractor-trailer had lost control on the TCH, due to very high winds, and rolled on its side, blocking all lanes of traffic,” explained Cpl. Colin Helm of the RCMP.
“The tractor-trailer began leaking diesel from its fuel tanks, and motor oil also,” clarified Deputy Fire Chief Todd Strickland via email. “HazMat was called specifically because of the leaking fuel and oil, and our ability to do plugging or patching. We also have different types of tools and equipment as it relates to absorbing or soaking up the various fuel spills.”
While there was a small danger of fire, Strickland explained that the imminent danger was to the environment. A major objective of the HazMat team is to mitigate the release or potential release of hazardous substances into the environment.
To prevent that from happening, Strickland said, “We put down absorbing material around the truck and on the shoulders of the highway. We also deployed 12-15 absorbing pads on, in and around the truck for the leaking motor oil and we had to place different weighted materials on the pads because of the wind in the area at the time.”
Winds in the Wreckhouse area at the time were so high that the RCMP asked all vehicles to not attempt travel, with gusts registering well over 100 kph.
According to Strickland, the high winds also hampered the HazMat team a bit, because while there wasn’t much danger of fire, there was a risk of physical injury.
If the winds were strong enough to blow a truck off the road, noted Strickland, then, “It could sure do it to a man.”
The cleanup of the fuel and oil took the HazMat team approximately an hour. Strickland estimates the amount of hazardous materials spilled was probably around 100 litres.
Cpl. Colin Helm confirmed that the highway was shut down in both directions for about three or four hours, and a large truck had to be used to push the flipped tractor trailer off to one side to allow traffic to flow once again.
The Port Aux Basques Fire department currently has five HazMat technicians, with several other members currently expressing interest in joining the team. The detachment recently added three new firefighters to its crew, bringing the compliment back to full at 35 firefighters.
Traffic troubles seemed to be at the forefront in the region last week. The RCMP released a statement seeking witnesses to a hit and run by a grey truck on Thursday, April 15 that took place near Brook Street.
“A grey truck, of unknown make or model, travelling at a high rate of speed, forced another motorist off the road and struck a parked vehicle, before fleeing the scene. No one was injured during the incident but damage was caused to the parked car as well as the vehicle that was forced off the road.”
Anyone with information is asked to contact the local detachment.