CALGARY — Hundreds of people were turned away from work and businesses closed after a major fuel leak kicked the city’s emergency operations centre into high gear early Wednesday.
When a bulk fuel carrier was pierced by a piece of rebar, it slit open the tank and unleashed some 4,500 litres of gasoline, the majority of it running into the storm drain.
By early evening, fire chief Bruce Burrell, director of emergency management, said most of the leak had been cleaned up with booms at a water retention pond.
The incident began when the driver of the truck, which was just topped up with fuel, accidentally punctured the tank and then tried his best to stem the flow.
“The operator was in fact covered in fuel and tried to shut the fuel off,” Burrell said. “The emergency cuts-offs were inoperable because of the accident.”
EMS spokesman Stuart Brideaux said gasoline is an irritant to skin and the driver in his 20s was decontaminated by fire crews and later taken to hospital in stable condition.
Several blocks near the scene were taped off while crews did the clean-up, and monitored air quality while vacuum trucks removed sand and foam used to soak up the gasoline.
Emulsifiers were put into the sewer system to break it down the fuel as it travelled several kilometres in the underground storm sewer system.
Transit train operations in the immediate area were temporarily stopped because of a potential for electrical hazard posed by fuel on the ground but shuttle buses ferried passengers between stops.
Officials said the leak did not affect drinking water or cause any lasting contamination.
Fire crews, acting on authority under bylaws allowing them to “requisition goods” in an emergency, broke into a nearby Canadian Tire to get shovels and wheelbarrows to get a head-start on the massive cleanup.
“We used keys to get in and will certainly square up with Canadian Tire for any goods we used,” Burrell said.
A police constable manning an entry to the scene turned away hundreds of people on their way to work.
“I can’t go to work?” one man asked the officer.
“Nope, but don’t worry, your boss isn’t in, either.”