A crash Wednesday morning involving a tanker truck hauling used cooking oil has reduced traffic along Hwy. 369 in northeastern Forsyth to one lane for the foreseeable future, authorities said.
And it could be a couple of days before the busy corridor fully reopens between Jot Em Down and Little Mill roads as crews work to remove the thousands of gallons of oil that spilled from the tanker.
Motorists are encouraged to avoid the area or take alternate routes.
Forsyth County Sheriff’s Maj. Rick Doyle said some of the oil may have reached nearby Lake Lanier.
The crash site is not far from Little Mill Middle School. Jennifer Caracciolo, spokeswoman for the Forsyth County school system, said officials had been “in contact with local law enforcement monitoring the situation.”
“We will be able to transport home students with alternate routes or using the one lane that will be open on [Hwy.] 369,” she said. “Parents [in that area] should expect delays, especially for Little Mill Middle School students, who are the last ones to be delivered home.”
According to Forsyth County Fire Division Chief Jason Shivers, the incident happened about 8:45 a.m. Wednesday.
The eastbound tanker overturned on the highway, also known as Browns Bridge Road, about 200 feet from the driveway of Fire Station 9, which is near Saddle Creek Trail and the Four Mile Creek bridge.
According to Doyle, the driver told deputies that he couldn’t stop in time after the truck came over a crest on the highway and encountered traffic stopped for a school bus.
“He ended up running off the road to avoid hitting the school bus,” Doyle said.
Although the driver initially declined treatment, he later complained of dizziness and was taken to an area hospital for evaluation, authorities said. His name has not been released.
No other vehicles were involved in the crash, which remains under investigation.
According to Shivers, oil immediately began leaking from the punctured tanker.
He said firefighters were unable to access the hole in the tank because it was on the lower side, which was buried in mud. Instead, they worked to stop the flow with shovels and dirt.
A significant amount of swampy area between the spill and Lanier may help keep the oil from reaching the water, according to Shivers.
He said firefighters used air-powered tools to tap the side of the tank so another truck could suction the remaining cooking oil out of the overturned truck before it was righted.
A private cleaning crew hired by the trucking company could be on site for the next two to three days handling the oil, Doyle said.
According to Shivers, the cleanup crew is using the closed lane to stage its equipment, as the steep drop-off on the side of the highway makes parking impossible.
The crew is also using the parking lot at Station 9 for some of its equipment, as well as Dumpsters to hold the contaminated soil.