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Spill near Jenner reroutes coastal traffic

A tanker truck carrying a nontoxic liquid used in road construction crashed a mile north of Jenner on Tuesday morning, spreading its cargo all over the road and triggering a large-scale emergency response amid fears the spill would affect the coastal environment.

The spectacular wreck, which occurred on Highway 1 when the driver drifted to the right and struck the side of the bridge over Russian Gulch, flipped the tanker over, forcing officials to close traffic on the road for most of the day. It brought responders from the CHP, various fire departments, Caltrans, hazardous materials, the state fish and wildlife agency, and state parks, which manages property nearby.

But according to responders and others who were at the midmorning scene, the crash could have caused a lot more damage. Because of the viscous nature of the material, it did not spread to the creek. It appears that only the immediate vegetation may have been affected.

"It looked a whole lot worse in photos than it was on the ground," said Brook Edwards, manager of the Jenner Headlands Preserve. "Thankfully it wasn't oil and it wasn't flammable, because that would have been a disaster."

The driver, Chuck Wilson, 68, of Vacaville, suffered only minor injuries, CHP Officer Nicole Brigstock said. An ambulance was sent out, but the driver declined to be taken to the hospital.

The truck was owned by Telfer Oil Company of Martinez and was carrying 5,600 gallons of asphalt emulsion liquid, which consists of asphalt, water and an emulsifying agent that blends the mixture, according to the Asphalt Institute, a trade group. The emulsion is used in road building and is considered nontoxic to the environment.

Calls to Telfer were not returned.

A stretch of Highway 1 was closed to traffic in both directions near Jenner until 5:30 p.m., according to the CHP. State officials oversaw cleanup efforts, the cost of which likely will fall on the truck company, which preliminary investigations deemed to be at fault.

Staff Writer Randi Rossmann contributed to this report. You can reach Staff Writer Elizabeth M. Cosin at 521-5276 or elizabeth.cosin@pressdemocrat.com.


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