Cleanup work was under way Wednesday on a 4,200 gallon gasoline spill caused when a work crew using a backhoe nicked a gas line Tuesday that stretches from North Salt Lake to Spokane, Wash.
The backhoe caught a 3/4-inch connection in the pipe near 2400 South and 1900 West (U-126) at about 11 a.m., sending a 30-foot plume of refined gasoline straight into the air, forcing the evacuation of about 20 nearby businesses, Chevron public affairs manager Walt Maguire said.U-126 was closed between 2250 South and 2550 South until about 7 p.m. Tuesday, Weber County Sheriff's Sgt. Klint Anderson said.
Some 63,000 gallons of gas travels through the 8-inch line each hour, 24-hours a day, Maguire said. The pressure of that flow is what caused the gas to shoot so high into the air. The geyser dropped to about 15 feet within an hour and dwindled to nothing by early afternoon after Chevron cut the gas flow.
The line is one of two that distribute commercial automobile, jet and diesel fuels for a number of different oil companies throughout the region.
Concerned that the spilled gas would ignite or the line explode, emergency crews from the Weber County Sheriff's Office and Weber County Fire Department along with the Utah Highway Patrol cleared the surrounding area as quickly as possible. However, some area residents were allowed to stay in their homes, Anderson said.
Firefighters doused the pooling gasoline with a foam retardant to prevent it from vaporizing and catching fire. Crews from Chevron assisted area business and residences in shutting off their gas, electricity and pilot lights.
The accident happened while crews from Chevron Pipeline Company where preparing to replace a section of pipe. The line is buried between six and eight feet deep.
"We were extremely lucky that no one got hurt," Maguire said.
Dave Crawford, a chef at Moore's Family Restaurant, was in the kitchen preparing Tuesday's prime rib lunch special when he saw gasoline shoot into the air. The restaurant is just across the street from the accident site.
"It looked like Yellowstone," said Crawford, who also saw the backhoe driver jump off his machinery and stop traffic on 1900 West. "He made 'em turn around and go back."
The staff at the Old School Body Shop spent their unexpected day off helping a co-worker move, shop owner Cory Johnson said. At first, employees thought the backhoe crew had snagged a water main.
"But then we went outside and we could smell it, so we turned the gas off here and just started running," Johnson said. He returned twice later in the day to check on the clean up process and make sure his business was intact.
"I'm sure we lost some business, but I haven't given it much thought," he said. "I probably needed a day off, anyway. It would take something like this to get me away from here."
Before he left for the last time, Johnson put a Charlie Pride recording on his store tape player and then flipped the switch on an outside intercom to serenade the cleanup crews.
"I think they enjoyed it," he said.
Officials from the Environmental Protection Agency, state environmental office and Weber County Health Department inspected the site Tuesday and were talking about mitigation plans with Chevron, Maguire said Wednesday morning.
Chevron crews were at the scene overnight Tuesday siphoning spilled gas and Maguire said he expected a new pipe to be installed before the end of the day Wednesday. Additional cleanup will take several days, he said.