by Garrett Neese – The Daily Mining Gazette
Hancock – A fuel tanker overturned on Santori’s Corner in Hancock Thursday morning, spilling thousands of gallons of gas and closing a section of U.S. 41 for hours.
The crash was reported at 8:11 a.m., said Hancock Cpl. Jeremy Lassila. There were no injuries, said Hancock Lt. David Outinen. Speed is believed to be a factor.
The entire Portage Canal, including public access beaches and boat launches, were temporarily closed as of Thursday afternoon, the Western Upper Peninsula Health Department announced in a health advisory Thursday. Drinking water has not been affected, the Hancock Fire Department said.
The main public safety risk is exposure to benzene either from inhalation or direct contact, the WUPHD said in the advisory. The public should avoid the affected area and any recreational use of the Portage Canal until the advisory is lifted.
People and pets should avoid direct body contact and avoid swallowing lake water in this vicinity, especially if fuel is visible on the water surface,” the advisory stated. “Do not use surface water for any drinking water purposes. If you smell fuel, move away from the area.”
Mannik & Smith Group and TriMedia Environmental & Engineering are conducting monitoring of the air.
The WUPHD issued the advisory in conjunction with the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE).
The cab remained upright, while the fuel tank itself detached and landed on its side. A Moyle crane pulled the tanker upright shortly before 5 p.m. Superior Service & Towing then removed the tank.
The tank was not fully loaded, Lassila said. About 8,500 gallons were in the tank, the Hancock Fire Department said. Crews recovered 3,852 gallons, with 1,960 gallons pumped out of the tank Thursday morning.
Crews were on scene in the hours after the fire spraying the area with fire-suppressing foam. The Hancock Fire Department, Hancock Department of Public Works, Superior Sand and Gravel, and B&B Construction also built sand berms to prevent gasoline from spreading.
U.P. Environmental Services out of Bark River arrived on scene around 4 p.m. to remove the remaining standing gasoline.
Sand had been put down within 15 minutes of the crash being reported, said Hancock Police Chief Wayne Butler. Superior Sand and Gravel had been coming through with a load; Hancock’s DPW also brought sand down.
Residents in West Hancock were evacuated from Santori’s Corner on South Lincoln Drive to Michigan Street and straight down to the Jutila Center, and Minnesota and Ohio streets between Ethel Avenue and Michigan Street. A shelter was set up at the Church of the Resurrection in Hancock. As of 5:30 p.m., it was unknown when they would be able to return to their homes.
U.S. 41 is closed between White Street and Quincy Street. Northbound traffic is asked to use M-203 going towards McLain State Park. Southbound traffic is asked to take Airport Park Road through Dollar Bay, particularly tractor trailers. White Street has been opened to two-way traffic.
Traffic may be restored by tonight; there is also a chance the closure could last long enough to affect morning commutes, the fire department said.
EPA, EGLE, and the Region 8 Hazmat Team are on scene to advise on cleanup efforts. Various contractors are on site and en route.