Oil Spill Closes Hwy. 87 For Hours

A semitrailer carrying paving oil rolled near Slate Creek Tuesday, causing the northbound lanes of Highway 87 to be closed for hours.

A semitrailer carrying paving oil rolled near Slate Creek Tuesday, causing the northbound lanes of Highway 87 to be closed for hours. Photo by Andy Towle. |

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A gluey, gooey mess closed northbound Highway 87 most of Tuesday and into Wednesday morning, after a semi carrying paving oil rolled over south of town.

Authorities believe the driver was going too fast for the curvy roadway, possibly overheating his brakes before losing control at milepost 228, near the bottom of Slate Creek hill.

Roughly 2,000 gallons of asphalt emulsion, used in paving, drenched the roadway — but mostly the northbound lanes. The spill created a sticky, hazardous layer inches thick in some areas.

Dustin Krugel, spokesman with the Arizona Department of Transportation, described it as a, “big, black gooey mess.”

At noon, officials initially warned the public the cleanup might force closure of the highway for up to two days.

Luckily, ADOT reopened one southbound lane just hours after the crash. About 3 a.m. Wednesday, after nearly 15 hours of work, the northbound lanes reopened as well.

The driver of the truck, who sustained non-life-threatening injuries, was by taken by ambulance to a Scottsdale hospital. Crews initially planned to airlift him, but he exceeded weight limits, said Carrick Cook, public information officer with the Arizona Department of Public Safety.

Cook said he was not sure if the man had been cited, but expected he would.

The Brewer Cote truck company hired contractors to clean up the mess.

Workers first kept the oil from spreading to nearby Slate Creek then applied sand over the liquid to soak it up. After scooping the mess up with loaders, they power-washed the roadway.

Neither ADOT nor the state will pay for the cleanup, say officials if the state can recover the money from the trucker or his employer or insurance carrier.

Cook said motorists were diverted to Highway 188, causing a major headache.

“It is one of those wrecks that had a huge impact on the community,” he said.

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