Clean-up operation launched after bitumen truck crash

A clean-up operation was launched by Taranaki Regional Council on Thursday (11 April) after a truck carrying bitumen crashed near the Mōhakatino Estuary.

Work and further assessments will continue today, however the Council is confident its initial response has greatly reduced any effects on the environment as a result of the spill.

The road repair vehicle’s tank, which contained 300 litres of emulsified bitumen, was damaged in the accident and the petroleum-based bitumen had entered a stream which discharges into the estuary which is close to Mōkau.

Council Compliance Manager Jared Glasgow said six officers used booms to contain the spill while absorbent material was placed on the surface of the water to recover what had gone into the stream. The operation took place during difficult weather conditions.

“Our staff worked until it went dark to remove the solidified bitumen which had settled in the stream. This work was vital as we were able to remove the product and reduce the leaching of hydrocarbons and smothering of the streambed. Altogether, we removed about 25 rubbish bags of material.

“The bitumen had solidified as it cooled and a significant layer had gone onto the stream bed and the rocks on stream’s banks. Some had also entered the estuary, mostly covering rocks near to State Highway 3. The good news was we don’t believe there was any issues with the truck’s diesel tank so it was a matter of collecting as much as the bitumen as possible.

“I am confident that the work has greatly reduced any actual and potential effects on the environment as a result of this incident.”

Mr Glasgow says the clean-up operation will continue today (12 April) with the replacement of booms, the recovery of the vehicle from the stream, the disposal of material and the truck owner is also on site to remove contaminated vegetation and clean rocks and other areas contaminated by the bitumen.

“We’ll also have a Council ecologist on site today to assess wildlife in the area,” Mr Glasgow said.