The Mahoning County Emergency Management's Local Emergency Planning Committee held their last meeting for 2011 on Dec. 15. The meeting included a review of the year and the hot spots when it came to chemical spills.
According to Hazmat team Deputy Chief Sil Caggiano, the split between Ohio 11 and Interstate 80 in Austintown was the area that presented the most activity, usually from truck accidents.
"We've had a flurry of spills in Austintown," Caggiano said. "They were mostly from fuel leaking from jack-knifed commercial trucks."
He said in the past two months there were two such incidents. Trucks traveling too fast around the interchange lost control and jack-knifed. When the truck cab came around, the saddle tank fuel reservoirs would be struck by the trailer, creating a leak of diesel fuel.
"When one of those tanks rupture, you're looking at 250 gallons of fuel spilling out," he said.
He said a large spill like that could enter the Webb Road pumping station, then continue on to the Mahoning River. The Hazmat team has to catch it early up stream to effectively stop the potential of polluting the Mahoning. The most recent jack-knifed truck incident last month was quickly taken care of, thanks to some friends of the Hazmat team.
Caggiano said a family of beavers had built a dam along the creek near the split. Since diesel fuel floats on top of water, the beaver dam held it in check to give the Hazmat team time to head it off and begin the cleanup.
At the meeting, the question came up of how diesel fuel would affect the beavers. The question was answered by Kurt Kollar from the Ohio EPA.
"The beavers will either vacate the area, or will get coated with diesel fuel," he said. "They will then go inside their dam and try to lick themselves clean. The diesel fuel will cause them to die from dehydration."
He eased everyone's thoughts at the meeting by reporting there was activity downstream from the spill. In other words, the beavers had vacated the old dam and were constructing a new one.
"They were apparently alright and were active," Kollar said.
Caggiano said the Hazmat team is always ready for spills, but said it never hurts to have a little help from nature.
While the diesel fuel is a cause for concern, there was one other spill in January of this year that would have been more devastating. Kollar said there was a spill of 5,000 gallons of buttermilk. He said the milk would act as food for bacteria, which would eventually multiply and the water course would be starved of oxygen and eventually all the aqutic wildlife would die out. Getting milk out of water is also a difficult task to pull off as it mixes with the water as opposed to just floating on top.