MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

February 22, 2012

Crash spills oil byproduct

Semi wreck dumps paraffinic oils on turnpike

By D.E. Smoot
Phoenix Staff Writer

— WEBBERS FALLS — An overturned tanker truck slowed eastbound traffic on the Muskogee Turnpike at the Interstate 40 entrance ramp after spilling paraffinic oils across the highway and into a creek.

The single-vehicle collision and subsequent spill was reported shortly after 10:30 a.m. Tuesday. A second tractor-trailer rig hauling fuel careened off the side of the road as its driver tried to avoid a second collision.

No injuries were reported, but emergency crews spent several hours cleaning up the spilled material and contaminated soil, and uprighting the overturned rig.

Oklahoma Highway Patrol Trooper Danny Curtis, who investigated the collision, said it appeared the initial wreck was due to excessive speed.

“He said the load shifted,” Curtis said about the first driver’s explanation for the wreck. “But he probably came around that corner too fast — you can tell that just by looking.”

Based upon the battered guard rail and skid marks, it appears the truck slid on its side about 300 feet after it overturned, spilling its cargo as it traveled much of that distance.

Paraffinic oil is a byproduct of the petroleum distillation process. It is used for manufacturing engine oils, industrial lubricants and processing oils used in rubber, textile and paper industries. Keith Rushing of Sooner Emergency Service said the liquid is considered non-hazardous.

Skylar McElhaney, a spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality said the spill consisted of about 8,300 gallons of the paraffinic oils. While there was a small creek below the collision site, McElhaney said none of the cargo reached the Arkansas River, which runs just east of there.

Anthony Rouse, who was driving the tractor-trailer rig when it crashed, declined to comment about the accident. A second trucker, Tracy Hayward, said he drove upon the scene shortly after the collision occurred but did not see it happen.

Hayward, who was delivering a load of fuel to a Love’s Country Store about a mile from where the spill occurred, said the overturned tanker was stretched out across the highway when he arrived.

“It was stretched out there, and I saw whatever it was hauling spilling across the road and knew this can’t be good,” said Hayward, who had to swerve to miss the wreckage, got hung up in the mud alongside the north shoulder, and ended up stuck off the south side of the highway. “It could have been worse.”

Officials with R.L. Smith Trucking Co., a Pine Bluff, Ark.,-based company for which Rouse was hauling the paraffinic oils, were unavailable Tuesday to comment.

Reach D.E. Smoot at (918) 684-2901 or dsmoot@muskogeephoenix.com.