Posted: May 7, 2013 2:46 PM by Dennis Bragg - MTN News
DENVER - Five years after a massive fuel spill fouled the shores of Flathead Lake, the U.S. Environmental Protection Company says the truck company involved in the crash will pay more than $80,000.
The crash happened in April 2008 on Montana Highway 35 just north of Polson. Investigators say the driver of the Keller Transportation gas tanker was going too fast around a corner when he lost control. The truck's second trailer hit the rock embankment and ruptured, spilling more than 6,000 gallons of fuel.
The initial cleanup took several days, but the gas seeped into the ground and over 500 feet down to the shoreline, entering the water and creating a mess that impacted residents and the environment for months. The fumes were so bad that five homes had to be evacuated for nearly a year.
EPA administrators announced on Tuesday that Keller had agreed to pay $83,500 to settle penalties for violating the Clean Water Act as well as the Oil Pollution Act, which prohibits the discharge of petroleum products into water.
"Truck accidents can have a significant impact on the environment and in this case caused a threat to public health," said Mike Gaydosh, EPA enforcement director in Denver. "This penalty serves as a strong reminder that every effort must be taken to avoid accidents and spills when hauling hazardous materials. EPA will take necessary steps to protect the public."
EPA and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribe has been working with Keller on the spill cleanup ever since. Those measures have included air abatement and monitoring systems, disposal of contaminated soil and systems to collect and treat groundwater.
The EPA says Keller is still responsible for monitoring the area, and while air quality improved, there are still "high levels" of groundwater contamination in the path of the spill. The agency says Keller has complied with all cleanup requests since the spill.