Blackfoot and Clark Fork Rivers Reopened After Semi Crash, Chemical Leak Highly Dilluted
Update 3:45, July 22- A 36 mile section of the Clark Fork and Blackfoot Rivers has been reopened after they were closed due to a nearby chemical spill.Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks, shut down the section of river between Johnsrud Fishing Access Site and Kona Bridge on the Clark Fork after a semi crashed carrying industrial soap making materials. The materials it turns out were “highly diluted and not hazardous,” according to FWP officials
Officials found that the amount of chemical spilled was small enough that it quickly dispersed and diluted.
Original story 11:59, July 22 – A single vehicle crash on Highway 200 and led to a closure of not only the highway, but the nearby Blackfoot River as well.
Sgt. Chad Dever from the Montana Highway Patrol says a semi driver out of Las Vegas crashed while heading east bound on Highway 200 at around 9a.m. this morning, July 22. The vehicle crashed on its right side and landed in a ditch alongside the road, spilling some type of “industrial” soap. Luckilly the driver, who may have lost control after taking a turn to quickly, appears to have escaped with only minor injuries.
“The rollover occurred near mile marker 3, between the weigh station and the fishing access at Marco Flats,” said Missoula County Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Paige Pavalone. “It was reported that there were chemicals leaking from the semi that was turned on its side. I understand that they are preventing people form entering the water above by Angevine Fishing Access and Rainbow Bend. I have heard reports that they are closing the river.”
As of 11: 45, crews were draining the semi of the “soap” (ingredients are reprtedly aluminum sulphate and diethanolamine) so that they could transport the vehicle without risking further contamination of the area. The river around the accident is closed and the crash area is down to single lane traffic.
“If people can find an alternate route to get to Great Falls or Helena, it would be much appreciated,” Dever said. “[Traffic] has been pretty good, but it’s picking up as the day gets later.”
Dever says that crews are expected to haul the semi away by around 12:45.
At 12:30, Vivica Crowser from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks issued the following press release noting that large sections of the Blackfoot and Bitteroot river would be closed because of the accident.
“Some of the soap did get into the river,” Crowser said. “It sounds like something that you can see floating in patches down the river.”
Efforts are underway to find out how much, if any damage, the chemical will cause to local wildlife and/or humans that enter the river.
State officials closed the Blackfoot River from Johnsrud Fishing Access Site to Kona Bridge on the Clark Fork River while crews work to contain and monitor the industrial soap making chemicals that spilled into the river this morning when a semi wrecked just east of Bonner.
FWP Regional Fisheries Manager, Pat Saffel, says that at this point it is uncertain how the chemicals might impact the river, including fish and people that come in contact with the water. FWP is working closely with county health officers and other incident crews and will lift or extend closures as necessary for public safety.
Turah FAS on the Clark Fork, upstream from the Bonner, is also closed, as there is no public takeout below this site before the Clark Fork closure begins. Johnsrud remains open as a river take-out for those using upstream sections of the Blackfoot.
FWP will continue to provide public access and river impact updates as the situation unfolds.