CONNELLSVILLE, Pa. (AP) - Emergency crews extinguished a tanker
truck that rolled over and exploded Thursday as environmental
workers tried to contain three types of fuels that apparently
leaked into a nearby river.
Nobody was injured when the truck carrying a combined 7,700
gallons of diesel fuel, kerosene and gasoline rolled over just
before 11 a.m. on a Route 119 highway ramp in Connellsville, about
35 miles southeast of Pittsburgh.
But the Department of Environmental Protection estimated fuel
from the wreck was spread over 13 miles of the nearby Youghiogheny
River by 9 p.m. Thursday.
"We could see a sheen (from the fuel) all the way across the
river," said DEP spokeswoman Betsy Mallison.
Environmental officials saw ducks that had fuel on their
feathers and had been sickened, but did not know whether other
aquatic life had been effected by the spill.
The tanker was empty, meaning all the fuel poured out of the
ruptured tank and either burned, soaked into the ground, ran into
storm sewers or flowed into the river, Mallison said.
The driver of the truck, Wayne Bocz, of Homer City, crawled out
the truck's window and was not injured, police said.
About 200 people were evacuated from homes and nearby businesses
because some fuels leaked into the sewer system, causing a threat
of fire or explosion. Mallison said it was unclear when the
residents would be able to return, although efforts to rid sewer
lines of fuel oils and flammable fumes were going faster than
expected.
Several communities draw drinking water from the river. Two
nearby treatment plants upriver weren't affected, Mallison said.
The next nearest intake downriver is in McKeesport, about 15 miles
away, and Mallison said officials believed the spill would either
be contained or otherwise dealt with before it threatened the
drinking water supply there.
The DEP was advising people living along the river to run tap
water down their drains and fill plastic bags with water and place
them over drains to prevent fumes from entering their homes.
"The vapors are the big issue," Mallison said. "The smell is
very strong in some areas."
Accent Fuel Inc., which owned the truck, hired a Washington
County firm, Weavertown Environmental Group, to clean up the fuel.
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation was also involved
in cleanup along the roadway.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)