Water testing continues for Coxes Creek asphalt spill

The site of Tuesday’s tanker truck wreck and subsequent asphalt spill on NC 226 North

Three days after a tanker truck accident on NC 226 North that resulted in a large amount of liquid asphalt spilling into Coxes Creek, water and environmental testing continued into Friday afternoon.

According to Sarah Young, public information officer of NC Department of Environmental Quality – Division of Water Resources (NCDEQ-DWR), the responsible party to the tanker truck carrying 5,500 gallons of liquid asphalt emulsion reported to the National Response Center a loss of 500 gallons of product into the waterway when the vehicle wrecked early Tuesday morning on 226 North. Additional investigation may result in revision of this quantity.

The liquid spill resulted in a fish kill which may be considered a residual effect or impact to Coxes Creek and Armstrong Creek as fish communities rebound. No residual effect is anticipated for the North Fork Catawba River, according to Young.

The Division of Water Resources (DWR) will continue monitoring Coxes Creek and Armstrong Creek. Where the product entered Coxes Creek, asphalt coating will remain present on rocks, woody debris, streambanks and the surrounding vegetation in limited areas. Asphalt coating material may also remain present, in lesser quantities, downstream of the spill site. Removal of cured material in these areas may be limited to avoid further impacting the stream.

Division staff have been onsite for the last three days assessing conditions and providing technical guidance. Water quality was tested by DWR on Tuesday and the potential responsible party’s contractor collected water samples in five stream locations Tuesday evening per DWR’s directive. Contractors have been removing dead fish, cured asphalt product and impacted organic material (wood debris, leaf packs, etc.) from Coxes Creek and portions of Armstrong Creek.

According to Young, DWR requested NC Wildlife Resources Commission to perform a fish kill assessment, which was completed on Thursday. A report is currently being generated. At the point where the product entered Cox Creek, black staining is visible on the streambank, rock, woody material, and leaf packs.

Although water quality testing results are not available at this time, Young says that stream conditions throughout the release impact have visibly improved significantly.

According to Rutherford Polk McDowell Health District officials, the precautionary advisory is still in effect as of 4:30 p.m. Friday.

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