NORTH STRABANE, Pa. (KDKA) – The clean-up continues in Washington County after at least 5,000 gallons of fuel from a nearby gas station spilled into a creek.
The smell of gasoline was so strong, a few people who live nearby say it made them feel sick so they’re staying in a local hotel. The smell of the gasoline is still lingering in the air.READ MORE: 5,000-6,000 Gallons Of Gas Spilled Into Washington County Stream
The Department of Environmental Protection says the spill has been contained. Booms and pads have been placed throughout the creek to soak up the fuel.
North Strabane’s Assistant Fire Chief Rich Yosi says it could take months before the fuel is all cleaned up and the smell is no longer in the air. This is something some nearby residents didn’t expect to hear.
“I don’t know if it’s necessarily good for you to smell gas all the time. As long as it’s safe and not going to hurt my kids,” said Thomas Walleck.
Thomas Walleck lives right near Little Chartiers Creek in North Strabane Township. He says he noticed a gasoline smell in the air a few days ago and soon found out what happened when he saw multiple emergency responders show up.
“When they told me there was 5,000 gallons of fuel ripping through that creek, I thought, ‘oh my God, fishes, animals, are we gonna be okay?’” said Walleck.
The DEP says a nearby Kwik Fill gas station in Somerset Township on 519 is responsible for the spill.
United Refining Company, which owns Kwik Fill, believes a pump used to transfer fuel from underground storage tanks to a dispenser failed, causing the 5,000 to 6,000 gallons of fuel to leak out. The company stresses the equipment has since been repaired and the spill is contained, but local firefighters say it could take months to clean up and the gasoline smell could linger for some time.
“The product is leaking through groundwater and until it seeps through and stops, they’ll be out there cleaning up that product,” said Yosi. “Gasoline continuing to smell over time can give you a headache.”
“Some things they’re doing include having a vacuum truck to suck out fuel from the waterway, installation of a siphoned dam to prevent flow while holding the product back,” said DEP Community Relations Coordinator Lauren Fraley.
As for the safety of residents and businesses nearby, Pennsylvania American Water, which serves most of Washington County, assures customers that drinking water has not been impacted and local businesses like Pawticular Pets Boarding Kennel are operating as usual while being monitored at the same time.
The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission confirms at least 1,000 fish died because of this spill.
This includes species such as minnows, crayfish and even frogs and salamanders. A spokesperson says typically, when fish are killed by something such as gasoline, the waterway will recover naturally over time and new fish will move into the area and stresses that can happen quickly.
Meantime, if anyone has health concerns, the DEP is encouraging people to call 911, talk to their doctor or reach out to the Pennsylvania Department of Health.
The Department of Health is not involved in the response of this incident but is providing resources to better understand the health impacts of gasoline spills. Informaiton from the CDC can be found here, here and here.