Local News

Residents Return as Johnston Gasoline Cleanup Goes On

Posted January 6, 2008 6:33 p.m. EST
Updated January 6, 2008 10:07 p.m. EST

— Dozens of people living in Johnston County got to go home Sunday after an overnight gasoline spill prompted precautionary evacuations.

Hundreds of gallons leaked into a creek in Kenly from the Etheridge Oil Co., and crews spent Sunday trying to get as much as they could out of the water.

Oily globs remained on the water surface Sunday in the creek that runs near U.S. Highway 301, but the layer had been 2 inches thick Saturday night, officials said.

“You could smell gas good,” said Carrie Hinnant, behind whose home the creek flows. “Anytime I smell gas, I'm ready to go!”

Firefighters knocked on Randy Shoular's door.

“They kept knocking, saying, ‘You got to go, you got to go,’” Shoular said.

He and about 50 others went to North Johnston Middle School for shelter.

“The need for evacuation of homes was simply a safety measure. Anytime you have gas out there, you have potential for fire,” said Pat LaCarter of the Johnston County Emergency Management Office.

Authorities contained the spill to a half-mile stretch of the creek, using booms to keep it from going farther downstream.

Workers at the Etheridge Oil Co. on Sunday declined to comment.

Environmental officials were investigating whether a valve on a 10,000-gallon Etheridge Oil storage tank may have frozen and ruptured, spilling about 1,000 gallons into the canal.

Officials said they found signs of aquatic life in the creek, but it was too early to assess the damage.

Officials said Etheridge Oil is paying all expenses for the fuel recovery. It was not clear Sunday whether the company would face any fine for the incident.