In the ditch
Driver released from hospital, cleanup complete

Highway 3 was shut down for an hour in both directions Sunday while Rae RCMP, transport and RTL Robinson Enterprises safety crews scrambled to pump out a truck filled with diesel fuel that slid off the road into the ditch - Richard Gleeson/NNSL photo

Cindy MacDougall
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Feb 23/00) - A tanker truck full of diesel fuel slid off the road on Highway 3 Sunday, leaving a third of its load in the ditch and the driver with minor injuries.

The accident occurred about 50 kilometres from the city, where the tanker slid into the ditch and overturned, according to Rae RCMP Sgt. Frank Foran.

The 55-year-old driver from Saskatchewan was rushed to Stanton Regional Hospital by ambulance, where he was treated and released Monday.

The tanker, which was contracted by RTL Robinson Enterprises, was hauling 40,000 litres of diesel fuel from Saskatchewan to Yellowknife, according to Janet Robinson, RTL's risks manager.

About a third of the fuel in the tanker, or 13,000 litres, spilled, Robinson said.

"This was not an RTL truck, driver or tank," she said. "But since it was our contract, cleanup is our responsibility."

Emery Paquin, director of environmental protection for RWED, said his officers have inspected the scene and helped with the cleanup.

He said spills of any toxic substance can lead to charges, depending on a company's reaction and cleanup.

"RTL's response was very quick," he said.

"They did report the spill within the 24-hour period, which is what they should have done."

Cleaning up diesel can be a laborious process, said Paquin. It can seep into snow and into the soil, as well.

"We did a burn of the spilled fuel (Sunday) and another one (Monday) with a haul-away of contaminated product, such as snow," she said.

Paquin said the environmental effect of the spill won't be known until the spring.

"Diesel fuel is toxic to plants and animals," he said. "We've tried to confine it to the ditch, but the actual success won't be known until the snow melts.

"It's a minimal impact now, but if it gets into a waterway, the impact will increase."

Fire Chief Mick Beauchamp said a rescue truck checked out the site for public dangers, then turned the scene over to police and RTL. The highway has been reopened, and the accident is under investigation.

However, Foran said he did not anticipate charges would be laid against the driver.