A northbound oil tanker rolled on Interstate 5 north of Centralia around 4:30 a.m. Wednesday, leaking an estimated 3,000 to 3,200 gallons of used motor oil and causing a six-mile backup throughout much of the day.
The truck driver, Jeffery T. Anderson, was not injured but was charged with driving while intoxicated and wheels off the roadway, according to the Washington State Patrol. Anderson was driving for EcoLube Recovery and was traveling from Portland to Tesoro, said Ty Keltner, spokesman for the state Department of Ecology spill program. Anderson, 53, left the roadway to the right and struck a guardrail, according to WSP. He then crossed all three lanes to the left, causing the trailer to roll and come to a rest blocking the left lane. The vehicle was hauling two tanks of oil, the second of which rolled and sprung a leak, Keltner said. It had a maximum capacity of 5,200 gallons and was assumed to be full at the time, he added.
All northbound lanes of I-5 were closed until about 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday, when two lanes were reopened, WSP spokesman Will Finn said. All lanes were fully reopened by 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.
The state Department of Ecology on Wednesday afternoon boosted its estimate for the size of the spill from 1,800 gallons based on the amount of oil remaining in the tanker, Keltner said Wednesday afternoon.
“This is a miles-long clean-up scene. The spill has left oil across all northbound lanes and has soaked into the surface. It means there are several miles of slippery roadway,” WSDOT reported late Wednesday morning.
Officials stopped the leaking fuel by 7:30 a.m. but Ecology needs to clean about 3 miles of roadway, according to Finn.
“Good news: The leak has stopped,” Finn reported at 7:30 a.m. “Bad news: About 3 miles of highway north of the scene has to be cleaned as drivers traveled through the spill before the roadway could get closed, which spread it on the highway.”
By about 8 a.m. a tow truck was on scene to remove the trailer and Ecology employees were clearing debris.
Cleanup crews employed by NRC were on the scene to mop up the oil.
Oil that flowed into a drainage ditch will have to be cleaned up and the soil there removed, Keltner said, but there was no indication of damage to wildlife or any water bodies.
Motorists, however, encountered backups extending beyond Chehalis into late Wednesday afternoon. Officials encouraged travelers to work from home or find different commutes.