A fuel tanker truck lays on its side after going off the Alaska Highway near Teslin Aug. 8. (Handout/Yukon RCMP)

Crews start cleanup following Alaska Highway tanker rollover

Environment Yukon says much of the 29,000 litres of gas has likely gone into the ground

Cleanup crews are still on the scene of a tanker rollover on the Alaska Highway that spilled about 29,000 litres of gas.

When Environment Yukon staff made it to the crash, at kilometre 1105 near Canyon Creek, there was no visible gas left on the scene, said John Ryder, acting director of environmental programs for Environment Yukon. That means all of it had either evaporated or soaked into the ground.

“It’s a large spill. We need to get a handle on exactly how far down it goes,” he said.

It’s too early to know for sure, he said. Crews have dug test pits and taken away five loads of dirt.

Water samples have been taken from the Rancheria River, about 120 metres from the crash, but there are no signs of contamination, Ryder said.

There’s no timeline for when the cleanup could be complete. For now crews are not touching the soil on the south side of the road. That’s where the territory’s fibre optic line is buried. They want to consult with Northwestel before they start digging, Ryder said.

The double-tanker, which rolled at approximately 8:15 p.m. on Aug. 7, has been removed from the site. The crash closed a long stretch of the highway, stranding travellers for nearly 24 hours.

The driver, who works for Pacesetter Petroleum, was taken to the hospital but was not seriously injured, said company dispatcher Dave Geoghegan.

Organizing and paying for the cleanup is Pacesetter’s responsibility. Geoghegan said the company has insurance to cover these kinds of costs.

He said the driver was reaching for something on his passenger seat when the tanker went onto the shoulder.

“With all that liquid on, 57,000 litres (total), he couldn’t bring it back on the highway, so it rolled over,” Geoghegan said.

The crash is still being investigated by the RCMP.

This is the second time in about two months that a Pacesetter tanker has crashed and started leaking.

In June, about 6,000 litres of fuel spilled in a crash at the intersection of the Alaska and North Klondike highways.

Geoghegan defended the company’s record. He said drivers move about five million litres of fuel a month.

“Our track record is impeccable really, for all the miles that we put on.”

Ryder said the company has done a good job responding to both spills.

Contact Ashley Joannou at ashleyj@yukon-news.com