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UPDATE:Fuel spill runs, but not to Kinni; vandalism suspected

Emergency responders sped to the north-end Kwik Trip station, 1238 N. Main St., after a caller reported a fuel spill around 10:45 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 17 and said gas was "running" across the parking lot.

Arriving within minutes, firefighters began spreading a drying agent on the fuel, dumping large amounts of it in front of the nearby storm drain to stop the gas from running into it.

Witnesses at the scene said gas began leaking near a silver Dodge pickup as it pumped gas.

The driver called for help when he saw it. Responders soon determined that the gas was leaking from under the truck.

River Falls' police, fire, ambulance and utilities departments responded to the spill. The station manager said they'd be working to determine how much fuel was spilled and may have flowed into the storm drain. Responders were also discussing ways to isolate any fuel that may have made it into the storm drain.

Though one entrance to Kwik Trip and one of its pumps was closed, the incident did not cause injury or road blockage.

Following up

Fire Chief Scott Nelson reports that the truck leaked an estimated 20 gallons of fuel that crews were able to contain within the sewer. No fuel ran to the Kinnickinnic River as a result of the spill, he said.

The Fire Department began remediation efforts by throwing down pounds and pounds of the same clay-based absorbent material as is used on industrial-shop floors, especially in the catch basin closest to the storm drain into which the fuel leaked.

Nelson said Kwik Trip has a cleanup team it called immediately that did a thorough job: "Kwik Trip was, I have to say, just exemplary working with us."

He explained how such teams flush the affected section of storm drain with warm water to wash out the drying agent, while a special truck vacuums the material out at the other end before it reaches the retention pond.

"The truck leaked gas, the gas got into the sewer, which goes to the retention pond," explained Nelson. "The gas never made it to the retention pond."

Nelson said as is procedure, the DNR was called and helping on the scene. Another safety measure the crews took was to monitor the level of fumes in the sewer drain to make sure they did not become explosive.

He confirmed that the truck was towed from the station and that a quarter-sized hole had been found in the side of its gas tank. As the tank filled, gas began spilling out the hole and running across the parking lot.

The fire chief says thankfully, the fuel spill was an easily managed one.

Foul play with fuel

Police completed a report after working the incident at Kwik Trip, noting in it that the truck belongs to the Chippewa Valley Technical College.

Until the day of the gas leak, the vehicle had been parked since Dec. 1 at the Habitat for Humanity Eco Village job site, 100 N. Apollo Road.

The report said CVTC instructor and construction company owner Michael Ming, 55, Woodbury, came to use the truck and noticed some kind shavings on the ground that looked like the product of some kind of power or hand drill.

When he got inside and started the truck, he noticed the fuel light on and traveled to Kwik Trip to fill it.

As the incident unfolded, it became clear that someone had probably drilled a hole in the tank, either to siphon out gasoline or just to vandalize.

The truck was towed from the gas station to Bowen's Garage.

Police reports for that week show a second, similar incident the next day.

A report dated Friday, Jan. 18, says that Peter R. Morsch, 30, River Falls, who also works as Habitat for Humanity's Resource Development Manager, reported to police that someone had vandalized a Habitat vehicle.

The report says a 1998 Chevrolet Silverado pickup had been parked at the Eco Village site when Morsch encountered the same situation as Ming had -- shavings, gas light, leaking fuel.

Again it was found that someone had apparently punched or drilled a hole in the side of the gas tank.

The report says that leak, which also happened at the north-end Kwik Trip, did not require large-scale cleanup.

Damages in the second case are estimated to be around $250.

Any citizen with information about the vandalisms is asked to call River Falls Police at 715-425-0909.