After thousands of gallons of petroleum leaked into the French Broad River near Asheville, NC, from an above ground storage tank Sunday, officials were warning residents to stay away.
The storage tank was on the property of Mountain Energy Bulk Fuel near the River Arts District in Asheville.
The incident occurred on Sunday afternoon and firefighters with the Asheville Fire Department (AFD) were first on the scene.
Firefighters attempted to contain the flow of the leak by applying a magnetic patch to the compromised tank and placing salvage drums below the leak, said AFD spokeswoman Kelley Klope.
“We got it to a very slow drip and allowed Mountain Environmental Services to offload the rest of the fuel into two other trucks,” she said.
The tank spilled approximately 4,000 gallons of oil into the French Broad — a river popular with paddlers, tubers, and anglers alike — before the leak was contained, Klope said.
Laura Leonard, spokeswoman with the North Carolina Division of Waste Management, gave a conflicting estimate of the damage, saying that spill was closer to 1,000 gallons.
Leonard said the tank holds up to 20,000 gallons of oil. Max Kimel, owner of Mountain Environmental, said he estimates the remediation company has removed some 16,000 gallons of oil remaining in the tank.
Regardless of the amount of oil that leaked, multiple agencies, including the Buncombe County Health and Human Services, NC Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Public Health and NC Department of Environmental Quality’s Division of Water Resources, urged the public to steer clear of the French Broad for the foreseeable future.
This includes the section of the river from the Amboy Road Bridge near downtown Asheville north to downtown Marshall.
There were no reports of fish kills, but there is an oil sheen that can be seen for 2 miles, as well as odor and discoloration in the areas affected by the spill, which took place close to the RiverLink offices and former 12 Bones site, Health Department officials said.
Health officials are also advising people to refrain from walking dogs and other pets near the banks of the French Broad as ingestion of even small amounts petroleum can cause severe health issues.