Ethanol spill isn't dangerous, officials say
It could be a few days before police learn what caused an ethanol tanker truck to overturn and spill ethanol at one of the Highway 59 roundabouts Tuesday, but authorities say the spill poses no lingering hazards.
Local police and the Wisconsin State Patrol on Wednesday still were trying to piece together how a semitrailer truck that was leaving United Ethanol with a load of ethanol made it through two of three roundabouts on Highway 59 before it flipped on its side while going through the third roundabout.
The accident Tuesday morning led to the spill of 8,000 gallons of ethanol into a nearby retention pond, and prompted officials to evacuate the area for hours and shut down Highway 59 east of Milton until well after midnight Wednesday morning.
A full report and results of an accident reconstruction were incomplete Wednesday, but Milton Police Chief Dan Layber said he doubted any citations would be issued. The truck driver was not injured.
Layber said the driver could only say that his truck suddenly tipped. Witnesses reported the driver did not appear to be speeding and he didn't appear to have gotten off course in the roundabout where the truck tipped, Layber said.
"The main suspicion is the load shifting and tipping over. We're still trying to confirm it," Layber said.
Layber said he was told by Milton Fire Department officials that the Department of Natural Resources on Tuesday had suggested allowing the overturned truck to drain its load of unblended ethanol into a storm sewer linked to a nearby retention pond.
That move was viewed as safer than bringing in equipment to deal with the spill, which officials said was potentially explosive.
Layber said the pond is lined with clay at the bottom, and he said DNR officials expected the ethanol to evaporate from the water. He said officials indicated the spill wouldn't be a threat to groundwater or drinking water.
One local trucking company has complained about Milton's roundabouts being difficult to negotiate. City officials say the Highway 59 roundabouts are challenging for large trucks and emergency vehicles because of a tight turn radius and narrow driving lane.
The city had asked the Wisconsin Department of Transportations to shrink the center island in the roundabouts and expand the "truck apron," a paved inner ring that large vehicles can drive on.
That work is scheduled in 2013, DOT spokesman Michael Bie wrote in an email to The Gazette.
Bie wrote that it's too early to tell what caused the rollover Tuesday, which appeared to have happened mid-way through the roundabout.
"Unfortunately, rollovers are regular occurrences on roadways and can be caused by numerous factors. We won't speculate on the cause until the (accident) investigation is complete," Bie wrote.
DOT officials say Milton's roundabouts meet federal regulations for lane width and turn radius, and Bie wrote that they were designed and built "to ensure they could safely accommodate the freight traffic associated with the (United Ethanol) ethanol plant."
"The roundabouts were completed in 2009 and have been serving the freight movement to and from the ethanol plant since then without incident related to their design," he wrote.