Fuel spill causes evacuation in PA of residents after tanker truck overturned
- 100’s of residents evacuated from their homes today in Bethlehem, PA
- 6,000 of gallons combined of gasoline and diesel fuel tanker truck overturned
Hundreds of Bethlehem, Pa., residents were evacuated from their homes today after 6,000 of gallons of fuel spilled out of an overturned tanker truck near Paul Avenue and West Union Boulevard on the city’s west side.
About 2:08 a.m., city police responded to the intersection, where a Dalton Delivery Service tanker truck carrying about 6,000 gallons combined of gasoline and diesel fuel overturned, according to a news release from police Capt. Nicholas P. Lechman.
“We are in the process of determining what residences are safe to return to, and clean-up will continue throughout the day,” Lechman said. “The events leading up to the accident are still under investigation.”
West Union Boulevard remains closed between Pennsylvania and 16th avenues, as well as side streets in the area, he said. Drivers should expect delays and avoid the area if possible.
Colleen Connolly, northeast regional spokesperson for the state Department of Environmental Protection, said the agency’s emergency response team responded to the spill.
“We’re just assessing the environmental impacts at this point,” she said. Earlier in the morning, she reported some of the material reached Monocacy Creek. However, just after 10 a.m., she said sand berms below 14th Street had protected the creek.
Officials believe “the entire contents of the truck” leaked out, Lechman said. The driver, whose name was not released, was taken to a hospital with non-life threatening injuries. Michael Dalton, owner of Dalton Delivery Service in Allentown, said the driver suffered a broken pelvis, clavicle and rib in the crash.
Officials used the reverse 911 systems, as well as officers going door-to-door, to notify and evacuate residents within a 1,000-foot radius of the overturned truck, Lechman said.
The American Red Cross was called in by Northampton County officials at about 3 a.m. to provide resources and support for affected residents, according to a news release from the organization. Red Cross teams are providing canteen services for emergency responders and supporting an evacuation shelter for impacted residents at Nitschmann Middle School, 1002 W. Union Blvd.
The middle school will operate on a two-hour delay, according to an announcement on the district’s website.
“Due to a fuel spill on the west side of Bethlehem, our school is being used as a shelter for displaced families,” according to the announcement. “We will delay the opening of school for two hours to ensure that our building is ready to function normally for students and staff while also serving our community’s needs.”
Dalton said he has been on Union Boulevard since being called out early this morning, but can’t get near the truck.
Dalton has a fleet of a dozen trucks and services smaller gas stations in the Lehigh Valley, Poconos and Reading, he said. The trucks generally hold about 8,400 gallons but he hasn’t seen the order sheet so he’s unsure how much was in the one that overturned.
Once the hazardous materials (hazmat) teams have cleared the area, his crews will pump whatever fuel hasn’t leaked into another truck, he said.
UGI has been on scene and has investigated several odor calls, company spokesperson Joseph Swope said.
As of about 7:45 a.m., no gas leaks have been detected and no customers have had their natural gas shut off, he said, adding they will continue to assist as needed.
The city fire department, as well as water and sewer officials, the Lehigh County Hazmat Team, Rapid Response, state Department of Transportation and other agencies are on scene determining the extent of the spill and assisting with clean-up.