Access to North Shore Road at King Hill, above, was closed for almost four days as officials cleared an oil and diesel spill.
Coral Bay residents had a difficult time getting to the beach the second weekend in August and it had nothing to do with the weather.
After a dump truck loaded with asphalt flipped over at the King Hill switchback and spilled its load, diesel and hydraulic oil on the steep hill, V.I. National Park officials closed that section of the road for almost four days.
While the asphalt was headed to contractor Island Roads — the company which is re-paving the entire roadway through the VINP — road workers weren’t expecting the load to come barreling down the hillside.
The truck had traveled along Centerline Road and turned onto North Shore Road at the Colombo Yogurt Stand. The Cheyenne heavy equipment dump truck lost control and flipped on its side traversing the steep switchback near the turn-off to Annaberg, Francis and Maho Bay Camps on Friday afternoon August 13, according to VINP Chief Ranger Lloyd Morris.
“It happened on King Hill Road around 2 p.m. on August 13,” said Morris. “It was a Cheyenne heavy equipment truck that flipped over. He lost control at the corner on the steep hill and he lost quite a bit of fluids, oil and diesel, on the road there.”
Officials removed the truck, but had no means of absorbing the slick at that time so VINP officials decided to close the roadway from the turnoff at Centerline Road, Morris explained.
“We don’t have a dump truck loaded with sand to absorb that oil,” he said. “So we put out a call for Island Roads to come and assist us. They weren’t available at that time.”
“No one was available to assist us until Monday,” Morris said. “We had the whole area closed for safety reasons for the weekend. We know it was an inconvenience for a number of folks, but we wanted to fix the problem correctly.”
Officials didn’t reopen the oil-slicked section of North Shore Road until around noon on Monday, August 16.
The dump truck operator reportedly leapt from the vehicle and no serious injuries were reported. The most damaging fallout from the incident — besides the hassle for beach-lovers having to drive to Cruz Bay to access North Shore Road — will probably hit the local flora.
“There was not a whole lot of damage,” said VINP’s Chief of Resource Management Rafe Boulon. “A few trees took a hit, mostly tyre palms. The road was chewed up a bit too from the truck, but that area is going to be re-paved again anyway.”
Most of the oil and diesel remained on the roadway, instead of cascading down the hillside, explained Morris.
“Much of the oil stayed on the road which is better than going into the soil where it would cause degradation,” said the VINP Chief Ranger. “It somewhat minimized the damage.”
VINP officials will check the area for soil contamination and re-vegetate the site with native plants and trees, VINP Superintendent Mark Hardgrove added.