The company whose tanker spilled 2,500 gallons of gasoline onto U.S. Highway 101 on Tuesday and created a commuting nightmare could be billed for the cleanup — even if the driver wasn’t responsible for the crash.
Numerous local, state and federal agencies rushed to the scene after a minivan crashed into a big rig owned by KAG West of West Sacramento, causing the rear of the tanker to flip and spill gasoline onto a 200-foot section of the highway.
County hazardous-materials teams worked for 10 hours to sop up gasoline and pump it from the freeway’s drains to prevent it from flowing into nearby Redwood Creek and the Bay.
Dean Peterson, director of the San Mateo County Environmental Health Department, said reimbursing the hazmat and environmental health teams alone could cost $15,600 — and that wouldn’t pay for the host of other police, fire and emergency personnel who responded.
“Under the assumption that it was an accident, we would bill for our time to the trucking company and their insurance plan,” Peterson said. “If it were gross negligence, it would be up to the district attorney whether we’d go after [minivan driver Angelina Revuelta].”
Other agencies could bill for reimbursement separately, he added. About 45 fire personnel responded to the scene, along with the Redwood City Police and Public Works departments, the California Department of Fish and Game, American Medical Response, the San Mateo County Office of Emergency Services, county environmental health, the California Department of Transportation and the California Highway Patrol, Redwood City fire Battalion Chief Dan Abrams said.
KAG West officials could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
CHP investigators are still interviewing witnesses to determine if Revuelta or Mark Coluin, the driver of the big rig, were at fault in the crash, CHP spokeswoman Grace Castillo said.
The lanes on the southbound side of the highway were closed for more than six hours Tuesday while the northbound lanes remained closed until early Wednesday morning. But the two fast lanes on northbound 101 remained closed between Whipple and Woodside Roads much of Wednesday as crews worked on the roadway.
The closures gave crews time to replace the asphalt, which began to disintegrate when the spilled gasoline dissolved the rubber binding the pavement together, Wonder said.
“You could stick your toe in there and swirl itaround, and the asphalt would break apart,” Castillo said.
Caltrans closed all northbound lanes and one southbound lane at 9 p.m. Wednesday, and hoped to reopen all lanes by today’s morning commute, Caltrans spokeswoman Lauren Wonder said.
The gas-soaked asphalt was a fire hazard, so Caltrans could not use its grinding tools to remove and replace the road surface. Instead, crews removed it with a large tractor with a scoop on the front, Wonder said.