Fort Smith keeps eye on area of diesel spill

Posted: February 4, 2018 at 2:37 a.m.

FORT SMITH -- City officials are monitoring Creekmore Park after crews removed contaminated soil and two trees after an estimated 250 gallons of diesel fuel leaked from a tank used to fuel a Creekmore Express train.

A park patron reported Jan. 20 seeing the red tint of diesel fuel in a small drainage stream and around the 500-gallon tank next to the park's station for the small-scale, amusement-ride train, said Travis Cooper, deputy director of the Sebastian County emergency management office.

The fuel tank had been filled in December, according to a city employee.

Fort Smith City Administrator Carl Geffken said Friday that city crews had dug out the contaminated soil from around the tank and a nearby section of the stream and loaded it in two plastic-lined, 20-cubic-yard dumpsters provided by the Sanitation Department. He didn't say how the city would dispose of the contaminated soil.

Geffken said two oak trees had to be cut down so workers could remove the soil in the root system that had been contaminated by the fuel.

"We've been staying on top of it. We've inspected it every day, several times a day, to see how everything is going," Geffken said. "At this point, there's no sheen [from the fuel] on collected water so we believe everything is up and everything is moving forward well."

He said the spill was reported to the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality. Department spokesman Kelly Robinson said Thursday that she did not believe that the city would submit a formal report on the spill until after the remediation was completed.

The Fort Smith Fire Department and others responded to the report of the spill. Fire Capt. Evan Gallant said in a report that the tank was leaking. The ground around it was covered with fuel, he said, and it was running into the stream. Responding firefighters tried several ways to stop the leak and finally slowed it but could not stop it.

"The entire creek was full of red diesel fuel," Gallant said in the report.

Cooper estimated that the spilled fuel ran through about a quarter-mile of the stream, which forked in different directions and ran through pipes in some spots before stopping 30 to 40 feet from Maybranch Creek, which flows along the west boundary of the park.

The Fire Department placed fuel-absorbing pads in several areas along the streams, and yellow crime-scene tape was strung up around the streambed.

It did not appear that any walking trails, playgrounds or picnic areas were closed off because of the spill.

State Desk on 02/04/2018