Cleanup continues after a fuel truck spills on Route 3
Crews were still on Route 3 on Nov. 16, 2023, at the scene of a three-vehicle crash the day before that flipped a tanker and spilled thousands of gallons of fuel across the highway. Route 3 remained completely closed until Wednesday night, and was partially opened Thursday morning with lanes closed throughout the day while cleanup continued. (Peter Currier/Lowell Sun)
BILLERICA — Route 3 reopened Thursday morning, a day after a three-vehicle crash caused a tanker carrying thousands of gallons of fuel to overturn and spill fuel across the highway, but crews remained at the scene as environmental cleanup operations continued.
Southbound Route 3 was the scene of heavier than usual traffic during the day Thursday, as environmental cleanup crews continued the process of cleaning up a fuel spill, with the left lane on the southbound side remaining closed to traffic as they worked.
All lanes on the highway were open, but some would close again at 10 a.m. so operations could resume, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation said in a post on Environmental cleaning. .
MassDOT said in a subsequent post at 1:11 p.m. Thursday that the left lane of southbound Route 3 will remain closed after Exit 79 while crews work until 3 p.m., and then again from 8 p.m. Thursday to 5 a.m. Friday.
The spill consisted of about 9,300 gallons of gasoline carried by the truck and 1,500 gallons of diesel in saddle tanks used by the truck itself, Edmund Colletta, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, said in a phone call Thursday afternoon. As of 2:45 p.m. Thursday, Coletta said there was no estimated time to complete the cleanup.
“In this case, the tanker load is spread across the dock to the median strip. Some of the fuel has been soaked and contaminated in the soil, which is being removed to reduce potential impacts to groundwater and to eliminate the chance of fuel-saturated soil igniting,” Coletta said in an email Thursday afternoon. “Contaminated soil is removed and disposed of properly and clean soil is backfilled into the excavation.”
Most of the fuel flows into underground storm drain pipes, discharging the mixture of gasoline, diesel and firefighting foam into a nearby detention pond “in significant quantities,” Coletta said.
“Vacuum trucks are currently being used to recover fuel and contaminated water from storm drain systems and a retention pond,” Coletta said.
MassDOT also milled and repaved the damaged section on the north side of the highway.
Zach Taylor, who works in Performance Trans operations. Inc., the Fitchburg-based company whose logo appeared on the side of the fuel truck, said its thoughts were with the driver, who said he was in good condition and released from the hospital. The driver of one of the other two vehicles also suffered minor injuries, state police said in a post Wednesday.
“That’s a tough thing for anyone to experience, to have an accident like this while minding their own business on the highway,” Taylor said.
The truck flipped onto its side in a crash between a 2022 GMC Sierra pickup truck and a 2022 Tesla Model Y SUV, according to state police.
A dashcam video shared on social media purporting to capture the incident appears to show the Sierra swerving from the middle lane into the lane the Tesla was traveling in, pushing the latter off the road. The truck then moves vertically into the far right lane, pushes the tanker trailer to avoid the car and then overturns.
“At this time, the evidence, including the widely viewed video from the dashcam that was behind the accident, indicates that the tanker driver bears no responsibility for causing,” state police said in a news release late Thursday. “In the accident.” afternoon. “The investigation is ongoing as to whether the driver of the other two vehicles should be charged or cited.”
On Thursday, the State Police Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Division began an inspection of the tanker, the statement said, noting that this is “standard MSP procedure for all major incidents involving commercial vehicles and does not indicate any mechanical issue or violation is suspected.”