Baltimore Tanker Crash Causes Oil Spill North of Inner Harbor

More than a week after a truck crash caused heating oil to leak into a tributary of the Baltimore Harbor, the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) is still working to contain and clean it up.

On the morning after Christmas, a tanker truck overturned on Baltimore's Interstate 83, sending thousands of gallons of heating oil into the Jones Falls, which feeds right into the Harbor.

The Baltimore City Fire Department says the tanker crashed at I-83 and West Coldspring Lane. It was carrying 3,000 gallons of oil, and 2,800 gallons of that spilled into the Jones Falls. The emergency response shut down the entire interstate Tuesday morning, with MDE, the Mayor's Office of Emergency Management, and Carroll Fuel Oil Company also working at the scene.

Heating oil is dyed red to distinguish it from the diesel fuel that can be legally used in vehicles. So the spill caused a section of the Jones Falls to turn pink, starting a sensation on social media. Twitter user @Brockelman21210 tweeted this photo, with the caption, "Oil truck crash on NB I83 definitely impacting the environment. Jones Falls has turned pink!"

jones falls dyed pink.jpg

MDE quickly installed booms in the President Street area of downtown Baltimore, where the Jones Falls approaches the Harbor, according to spokesman Jay Apperson. MDE also oversaw an effort further upstream, where contractors installed additional booms. Workers have been able to vacuum oil from the water, and eight days after the spill, the contractor is still recovering oil twice a day.

Apperson says getting the oil to flow from the spill site to the containment and recovery area has been challenging, because of the ice that's gripping the region. At this point, there's no evidence that any oil has made it past the containment site and into the Harbor. MDE and the contractor will continue to work until as much oil as possible is recovered. Right now, Apperson estimates, the effort has recovered about 1,700 gallons of oil from the water.

Blue Water Baltimore, the city's waterkeeper organization, says it is also monitoring the movement of the spill. The group asks anyone who sees birds in distress from the oil to let them know, and also to call Tri-State Bird Rescue at 1-800-261-0980. So far, MDE isn't aware of any effects on wildlife.

Blue Water Baltimore reminds us, you can always report pollution through its online form, by clicking here.

No one was injured in the tanker crash, including the driver.

Megan Viviano