Fuel spill contained at AT&T building in San Jose


Crews cleaned all street-level diesel fuel that had been spilled from the AT&T Corp. building on South Almaden Boulevard in order to ensure the fifth annual Rock 'N' Roll San Jose half marathon can take place as scheduled today at 8 a.m., fire Capt. Barry Stallard said.

Stallard said that if any more fuel had spilled, the marathon would not have been able to go on.

Fire crews will be stationed at a fire department training center five minutes away from the spill site starting at 11 a.m. today to be on-hand in the event of any unexpected emergencies, Stallard said.

"Everything that was street-side has been removed," Stallard said. "What is still a problem is what's in the storm drain and what could be leaked into the river."

The next 24-hour operational phase of cleaning up the 1,300 gallons of spilled fuel will be focused on fuel that has entered the city's sewer system and will commence at 8 a.m. Monday, Stallard said.

"It is imperative that the contaminant not get beyond where it already is," Stallard said.

A third phase is not planned at this time because the department expects it can collect all the remaining fuel from the storm drains in the single day-long operation, Stallard said.

Representatives from the Department of Fish and Game, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Santa Clara County Fire Department will assist San Jose fire officials on Monday, just as they did during the overnight cleanup this weekend, Stallard said.

The diesel fuel leak from a 100-gallon tank on top of the ten-story building was reported at 5:15 p.m. Saturday, Stallard said. Fuel was running down a rain runoff system and spilling all over city streets where people are known to jog, he said.

The tank holds fuel that is meant to supply an emergency back-up generator that would keep AT&T's 911 hub inside the building operating even in the event of a power outage, Stallard said.

It is hooked up to a 50,000-gallon fuel tank under the building's parking lot, which is meant to keep the 100-gallon tank full at all times but it meant to stop fuel flow when the smaller tank is full, Stallard said.

"For whatever reason the fuel would not stop flowing," Stallard said of the leak, the cause of which has not yet been determined.

A building engineer was able to stop the leak within an hour, but the power generator that the fuel is connected to is still running, Stallard said.

"The problem still hasn't been resolved 100 percent," he said.

The fire department Hazardous Incidents Team vacuumed up whatever oil was not absorbed by spill sand that was spread and stored the spilled fuel in drums, Stallard said.

He said AT&T probably would not want the oil back for use because it is dirty from the street, but he said they would probably follow procedural disposal methods and pay the associated fees for the fuel disposal.

No one was injured during the containment of the spill and AT&T phone service was not disrupted, Stallard said. Representatives from the phone company have been involved with the clean up, he said.

South Almaden Boulevard had to be closed from West San Fernando to West Santa Clara streets until 5 a.m., Stallard said. While no closure of the street has yet been planned for Monday, Stallard said it is a definite possibility that they will need to be blocked off again.

Stallard said he has never seen a spill like Saturday's in his 24 years with the San Jose Fire Department. Though the risk is poses to wildlife is particularly high, the fuel is not likely to impact human health through exposure, Stallard said.

"I think we've got a really good handle on making sure nothing happens to people at this time barring emergency circumstances," he said.

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