Overturned truck spills oil into Donner Lake | NevadaAppeal.com

Overturned truck spills oil into Donner Lake

Greyson Howard and Jason Shueh
Nevada Appeal News Service

TRUCKEE, Calif. – Despite emergency response efforts, an undetermined amount of diesel fuel spilled by a wrecked tanker trailer on Interstate 80 early Wednesday morning has polluted Donner Lake.

A three-axle tanker was traveling east on I-80 at about 6 a.m. Wednesday when the driver, Michael Anderson, 42, of Sacramento, slid on the icy road and overturned, colliding with the guard rail, rupturing the tank and emptying about 2,500 gallons of diesel onto the roadway, according to California Highway Patrol. Anderson was uninjured in the wreck.

The spill was partially contained, but some diesel fuel flowed down the mountain and made it into Summit Creek, at the western mouth of Donner Lake, by 11 a.m., according to Nevada County Environmental Health officials on scene.

“We don’t know the extent, but we know oil has made it as far as Donner Lake, but we don’t know how much,” said Truckee Town Manager Tony Lashbrook.

Steven Poncelet of the Truckee Donner Public Utility District said no drinking water is threatened by the spill.

“We don’t draw any water from Donner Lake,” Poncelet said. “Our water comes from deep wells.”

Lashbrook said the spill has the potential to impact water quality, fisheries, recreation and private property in the town; with Memorial Day weekend around the corner, he said there are no indications the lake will need to be closed, as of yet.

Kevin Thomas, an environmental scientist for the California Department of Fish and Game, said until a full assessment is completed, it is hard to summarize the extent of the damage to the ecosystem surrounding – and the cold water game living inside – the lake.

“The impact depends on how fast the creek is moving. But according to weather reports, it’s moving pretty fast,” Thomas said.

Fish and wildlife also could be in trouble, he said, and said local fish such as brown trout, rainbow trout, brook trout, sculpine and minnows – depending on concentration of diesel fuel – could be potential spill victims.

“Pretty much anything aquatic is going to feel the effects of the spill,” he said.

The spill came down through Frog Creek to Summit Creek, through Truckee Donner Land Trust open space, said Perry Norris, executive director of the group.

“We’re saddened that the brunt of the spill had to run through recently protected property,” Norris said. “But we’re pretty impressed with the response.”

Lisa Wallace, executive director of the Truckee River Watershed Council, said her concern is within stream habitat.

“There needs to be professional monitoring in these streams to find out what the impact is,” Wallace said, a project that would likely be taken up by the California Department of Fish and Game.