Digital Exclusive: Tanker incident threatens Lehighton community, Lehigh River

Digital Exclusive

LEHIGHTON, CARBON COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU)– One neighborhood along Route 209 in Carbon County woke up to a scare for their safety as well as an environmental impact to the Lehigh River.

“It was kind of crazy. I was trying to actually get out and head to work this morning but I got stuck because of the ice and snow in my driveway,” said Richard Barbon, who lives less than a block away from the site. “I heard the noise and then smelled the extreme smell of kerosene. I came up here and saw kerosene rushing down the road and then saw the oil truck turned over.”

That was the Wednesday morning scene — an imminent threat to a neighborhood along Route 209/Mauch Chunk Road in Lehighton.

“The fuel delivery truck overturned. It was on its roof when I arrived on scene,” said Carbon County Emergency Management Agency coordinator Mark Nalesnik. “It was carrying approximately 2,500 gallons of fuel oil and some kerosene. All of the product did leak out of the truck as a result of the overturn.”

While there were no injuries to report and that fuel wasn’t ignited, the neighborhood had cause for concern.

“Definitely was concerned about the driver and making sure he was OK,” said Barbon. “Obviously, all the kerosene pouring down the road, there’s dangers in that if it got ignited. I was concerned about that, especially because it’s right here next to our house.”

Those neighbors and officials, alike, on the scene credit multiple volunteer fire companies for their quick response.

“As soon as the fire departments got here they utilized the equipment that they have for these kinds of incidents. They put their training into action,” added Nalesnik. “They are trained and equipped to come out and deal with an incident like this.”

As much as the first responders could do, there was still almost 2,500 gallons of fuel rushing towards the Lehigh River.

“We fish in that river and stuff like that so that’s definitely a concern. Hopefully they are taking care of it,” noted Barbon.

Multiple agencies were quick to acknowledge the response time but know this incident will need to be monitored to prevent regional contamination.

“Due to the proximity of the Lehigh River we involved a lot of agencies for environmental protection purposes. Pennsylvania Fish & Boat is here. Pennsylvania DEP (Department of Environmental Protection) is here along with certified hazmat cleanup contractors. We’re concerned about the impact, also, for the downstream area,” said Nalesnik. “There’s downstream communities and counties of Lehigh and Northampton. All of this water goes through their counties so we did make notifications to them.”

While initial reports are optimistic that the bulk of the spill has been contained…

“It’s just watching and doing anything we can to protect the environment.”

Traffic is expected to be detoured around the accident site on 209 until at least six, Wednesday night, as cleanup and evaluation efforts continue.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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