INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – When a southbound I-465 tractor-trailer slammed into a guardrail along the eastbound I-70 ramp on Indianapolis’ eastside last Thursday afternoon, the rig burst into an explosion as 4,000 gallons of jet fuel either burned off in flames that billowed black smoke into the sky or spilled down the embankment.
Today, crews monitored by the Marion County Health Department and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management spread booms across Pleasant Run Creek near Shadeland Avenue to sop up suspected fuel that floated down the waterway.
“It smells like diesel fuel, but its jet fuel,” said Mark Gleaves as he sat in a wheelchair in the parking lot of an East 21st Street convalescent center as crews captured the contaminated creek water nearby. “I didn’t know where it was coming from. I even forgot about the crash, but since I heard about the crash I wondered what those guys were over there doing.
“I didn’t know what they was doing until I found out it was jet fuel, and I’m real concerned about it because it’s a health issue. You don’t know if that will catch back on fire or not.”
Less than a half-mile from the crash site, a culvert spills out into Pleasant Run Creek near Shortridge Road.
That trickle of water eventually causes the creek to spread out as it approaches Shadeland Avenue before the body flows beneath 16th Street and into Pat Dearing’s Warren Park neighborhood.
“You could feel the boom when it exploded,” said Dearing, a 26-year resident who was home at the time of the tanker crash. “Right now they say that it smells bad because of the jet fuel.”
Dearing surveyed the booms in the creek just south of 16th Street and the giant white bags of hazardous materials left by the waterside and apparently contaminated with jet fuel.
“Well, these big sort of sponges in these bags are right down there. They’re supposed to sop up the jet fuel and keep it from getting further down the creek,” she said. “It’s probably a combination of the jet fuel and the water because the water in the creek is really dirty but the jet fuel will make it worse because obviously the wildlife might get in there and drink the water.”
Dearing said, polluted though Pleasant Run Creek is, it teems with wildlife such as red foxes, raccoons, beavers and coyotes.
“You can see soap suds and stuff coming down periodically but we do have a lot of wildlife coming down here.”
Dearing said several of her neighbors are concerned about groundwater pollution near the creek as they rely on wells for water.