Hydraulic fluid from a Waste Management garbage truck damaged roads in Mountlake Terrace June 23, 2021. The company hired crews to put absorbent material on the fluid and swept it, but several areas need to be repaired. (City of Mountlake Terrace)

Hydraulic fluid from a Waste Management garbage truck damaged roads in Mountlake Terrace June 23, 2021. The company hired crews to put absorbent material on the fluid and swept it, but several areas need to be repaired. (City of Mountlake Terrace)

Truck leak prompts 2 miles of road work in Mountlake Terrace

About 50 gallons of hydraulic fluid spilled from a Waste Management garbage truck last June.

MOUNTLAKE TERRACE — About two miles of Mountlake Terrace streets need work because a garbage truck leaked about 50 gallons of hydraulic fluid last year.

The Waste Management truck driver was on a regular route June 23, unaware of the vehicle dripping and spilling the petroleum-based liquid.

Residents saw it and called the company, posted photos to social media and notified the Washington State Department of Ecology.

“It was quite a wide area,” Mountlake Terrace stormwater program manager Laura Reed said. “This is not anything that should end up in the creeks or Lake Ballinger.”

Spilled oil in water harms wildlife, according to NOAA’s National Ocean Service.

The leak happened during the heat wave that gripped Western Washington with record-high temperatures. The road’s asphalt surface expanded and absorbed some of the fluid.

Thanks to the dry stretch of weather when the hydraulic fluid leaked, it mostly didn’t reach the city’s stormwater system, which flows into creeks, streams, Puget Sound and Lake Ballinger.

“If it hadn’t been dry, it really could have caused a lot of problems,” Reed said.

Once Waste Management learned of the leak, they had crews put cat litter on it and sweep it off. That didn’t clean all of it.

“When we have spills, especially spills to roadways, one of the best things you can use is actually cat litter,” Ecology spokesman Ty Keltner said.

Later, Waste Management tried spraying a mild soap and pressure washing and vacuuming it out of the asphalt.

Law requires spills be reported to Ecology, which sends staff to ensure it’s cleaned properly. Responses depend on the amount: Smaller spills can be treated with absorbent pads or a vacuum truck removing contaminated material from storm drains.

The state responds to over 4,000 spills every year, Keltner said. Those include spills of gasoline, hydraulic fluid, oil and even milk.

“Every type of thing you can think of entering the environment that shouldn’t be there, we respond to,” he said.

Waste Management hired a company to try to wash out hydraulic fluid that leaked onto Mountlake Terrace roads in late June 2021. (City of Mountlake Terrace)

Waste Management hired a company to try to wash out hydraulic fluid that leaked onto Mountlake Terrace roads in late June 2021. (City of Mountlake Terrace)

Sometimes the state gets involved directly in the cleanup efforts, but usually the burden and cost is on the responsible party.

Ecology didn’t send anyone out to the Mountlake Terrace spill but followed up on cleaning efforts. The state employee found “almost all” of the leak was on the road.

“Any amount of petroleum product that spills into water is something that is a concern,” Keltner said.

That’s why the state encourages people to use professional car washes to rinse vehicles. If that’s not an option, Ecology recommends washing vehicles on lawns, where the ground can filter the road grit, oil and soap.

“A lot of people think anything that falls into the storm drains goes to a treatment plant, but that is not the case,” Reed said. “It’s just supposed to be rain going into the stormwater system.”

Mountlake Terrace is sending crews to apply new pavement markings and a protective coating called fog seal on the affected roads. That will cover the stains from the hydraulic fluid that damaged the asphalt, Mountlake Terrace Public Works director Eric LaFrance said.

Work to restore roads after a garbage truck leaked hydraulic fluid in June 2021 is planned for Mountlake Terrace. It will include parking restrictions for the red zone May 31 and June 2, and the yellow zone June 1-3. (City of Mountlake Terrace)

Work to restore roads after a garbage truck leaked hydraulic fluid in June 2021 is planned for Mountlake Terrace. It will include parking restrictions for the red zone May 31 and June 2, and the yellow zone June 1-3. (City of Mountlake Terrace)

The area includes 58th Avenue W from 215th to 230th streets SW, and some roads east and west from 52nd Avenue W north of Terrace Creek Park.

That work is estimated to cost $56,000, and Waste Management is reimbursing the city for it.

“Our commitment is 100% compliance and cooperation,” Waste Management spokesperson Gary Chittim said in an email.

Parking restrictions are scheduled for those areas May 31 through June 3. It could also affect access to driveways, sidewalks and garbage collection.

Ben Watanabe: 425-339-3037; bwatanabe@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @benwatanabe.

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