Health officials are warning people to stay out of the French Broad River after thousands of gallons of petroleum leaked into the waterway from an above ground storage tank located on the property of Mountain Energy Bulk Fuel at 288 Lyman St. near the River Arts District of Asheville, North Carolina.
According to the Asheville Citizen Times, the incident occurred on Sunday afternoon and firefighters with the Asheville Fire Department (AFD) were first on the scene.
AFD spokeswoman Kelley Klope told the Citizen Times that 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.
“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.
According to Klope and the AFD, the tank spewed approximately 4,000 gallons of oil into the French Broad—a river popular with paddlers, tubers, and anglers alike—before the leak was contained.
But 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.
Regardless of the amount of oil that was leaked, multiple agencies, including the Buncombe County Health and Human Services, N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Public Health and N.C. Department of Environmental Quality’s Division of Water Resources, are urging 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.
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.
Anyone who spots what appears to be an oil-like substance on the surface of the river is asked to contact the Division of Environmental Quality at 828-296-4500. For health and safety questions, call Buncombe County Health and Human Services at 828-250-5016.