An estimated 650 gallons of diesel was released into Tyler’s storm water drainage system near Donnybrook Avenue early Friday and cleanup efforts could take through the weekend.
Residents may notice the smell of diesel in the area until then.
The spill likely happened while a large generator with a fuel tank at Texas Spine and Joint Hospital, 814 Roseland Blvd., was being serviced.
Hospitals are required to have generators, and they are also required to have periodic maintenance, said Paul Findley, public information officer for the Tyler Fire Department.
The spill happened sometime before 3 a.m. due to a fueling company attempting to clean and recirculate the generator’s 5,000-gallon diesel tank, Findley said. The fuel is filtered, cleaned and put back into the machine.
There is a safety mechanism in place in case something goes wrong that is designed to catch 80 percent of the fuel, giving the possibility that 20 percent leaked and went into the storm water system, and into a creek.
The Tyler Fire Department was called to the area around Front Street and Douglas Boulevard, north of the Midtown District about 3:20 a.m. Findley, said.
Firefighters noticed the area smelled like gasoline and there was a sheen on a nearby creek.
The team followed the sheen to see how far it had gone, eventually stopping near the intersection of High Street and East Erwin Street, where crews placed absorbing materials in the creek to catch any fuel, which floats on top of the water.
It was eventually traced back to the hospital.
Findley said the fire department put out devices to catch the diesel, but a private cleanup crew will handle the actual cleanup. The fire department left the scene about 7 a.m., but has been checking in with the company on its progress.
The company has large vacuums, and may employ enzymes that break down the diesel molecules. Parts of the creek are above ground while other parts are under, he said.
The company also has requested that Tyler Water Utilities start flushing hydrants in the area to further move the water, speeding up the time that the floating devices can absorb the diesel.
The diesel smell will persist for a while, until it’s all cleaned up, Findley said.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality was notified of the spill.