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Asphalt spill fouls Sandia Creek in Riverside County

October 23, 2012 |  8:13 pm


State teams are assessing the damage from a 600-gallon spill of asphalt tar into Sandia Creek, one of Southern California's few pristine, free-flowing streams.

The spill occurred Monday afternoon, when a tanker truck carrying asphalt for road repairs rolled over on De Luz Road in western Riverside County. The thick, sticky substance coated plants and soil along a  300-yard stretch of the stream and some spilled into the water, according to a statement Tuesday from the state Department of Fish and Game.

Aided by seasonal low flows, clean-up crews contained the tar with booms and absorbent poms poms. But they may also have to remove contaminated vegetation and soil, said department spokeswoman Alexia Retallack. She added that in deciding what to remove, biologists will have to evaluate potential damage from digging.

Biologists have counted 16 dead mosquito fish and a dead tree frog, but so far no oiled birds have been spotted.

Arroyo chubs, a small native fish now found in only scattered locations in Southern California, is present downstream from the spill in the creek, which is a small tributary of the Santa Margarita River. None were spotted in the immediate vicinity of the spill.

"Pristine waters like Sandia Creek and the wildlife within it are especially vulnerable to pollution,” said Thomas Cullen of the department's Office of Spill Prevention and Response.


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Photo: Sandia Creek after the spill. Credit: California Department of Fish and Game