On Wednesday, 5 April, The Capital carried a front-page report of a freak accident in which a home heating oil truck overturned at a busy intersection in the Back Creek watershed:
The Capital’s story focused on the disruption caused by the consequent traffic jams, which spread for miles and lasted more than four hours.
What didn’t make the headlines was a potential oil spill disaster averted just days after volunteers cleaned more than a ton of trash from the Back Creek watershed. The fuel oil truck overturned at a storm drain that leads directly to the headwaters stream of Back Creek. Within 40 minutes of the accident, trucks from Ace Environmental were at the storm drain outfall, equipped with oil-absorbing booms and pillows and a large pump truck to remove the oil as it floated out of the storm pipe and into the stream bed.
As of now, about 48 hours after the accident, it appears that almost all of the fuel oil was captured at the outfall and that none of the oil penetrated more than about 70 feet down the stream before it was contained and removed. MDE has still not completed an accurate measure of the extent of the spill, but it is calculated to have been less than 300 gallons.
Ace Environmental, located in Curtis Bay, Baltimore, was also the MDE emergency response contractor for the fuel oil spill into the Crab Creek headwaters at the Annapolis Middle School during the big snow storm at the end of January. Unfortunately, that spill, estimated to have been 220-230 gallons, wasn’t discovered until about 36 hours after it began, and the deep snow and wooded terrain hampered the cleanup, so the oil flowed all the way down to the tidal range, a distance of one-half to two-thirds of a mile. Now, more than two months later, a bright red oil sheen is still visible in the headwater stream after every rain.
Everyone who lives, works, or plays on Back Creek owes Ace Environmental a vote of thanks for their quick and professional response.