image-oil spill
A truck overturned in the vicinity of Alpine Creek on Sept. 30 causing a spill that required mitigation efforts. Photo courtesy California Department of Fish and Wildlife

State authorities are investigating a spill that fouled Alpine Creek in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

On Sept. 30, a truck was on its way to a county job site and tried to take a shorter route on Alpine Road near La Honda. On a sharp bend, the truck spilled about 1,000 gallons of asphalt emulsion product used on roads and some diesel fuel into a tributary that flows into Alpine Creek, officials said. 

Spokeswoman Mary Fricke from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response said the spill affected about 600 yards of the stream, and there was product on the surface and bottom of the waterway.

“The truck was removed the same day,” Fricke wrote in an email. “(Office of Spill Prevention and Response) scientists remained on-scene supervising the cleanup and monitoring for oiled wildlife.” 

The Office of Spill Prevention and Response and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency conducted the cleanup, which took about two weeks. The cleanup crew used a variety of methods, including hay bales, Visqueen plastic sheeting, absorbent booms and pads, and vacuum trucks among others, Fricke said.  

Nathan King, an engineering geologist with the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board, said now that the cleanup is finished, the water is being used for drinking again. 

“The analytical results we see, they’re all non-detect,” King said. “My role will still be to require ongoing monitoring to show during the rainy season that nothing else gets mobilized.” 

King said workers had to disturb vegetation during the cleanup. That could make sediment fill the creek during the rains, and they are taking steps to control the loose soil. 

This incident is one of 14 spills reported in the county since Sept. 30, according to state spill report logs. In addition to the regional water quality control board’s monitoring, Fricke said the Office of Spill Prevention and Response has an active investigation into the product spilled in the water.

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