A turtle and a bird rescued from an oil spill in the Cuyama River east of Santa Maria were receiving veterinary care, California Department of Fish & Wildlife officials said Monday.
They were found nearly two days after 4,500 gallons of oil spilled from a tanker truck that crashed Saturday morning on Highway 166, east of Aliso Creek.
The driver, Jesse Villasana, 32, of Wasco, told California Highway Patrol officers that the westbound truck’s trailer began to sway side to side as he entered a curve.
As his truck drove on the right shoulder the driver attempted to correct the path by making a hard turn to the left, CHP Officer Benjamin Smith said.
At that point, the trailer disconnected from the truck and rolled down the embankment into the riverbed, Smith said.
The crash happened at 4:30 a.m., but was not reported until after 6 a.m., a delay attributed to spotty cell phone reception in the area. A passerby reported the crash, Smith said.
Drugs and alcohol did not play a factor in the incident, Smith said.
The state Office of Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR) joined with the Santa Barbara County Fire Department, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Petrol Transport Inc. in the cleanup effort while racing to stem the spill ahead of approaching rain.
“A rapid response helped contain the oil upstream from Twitchell Dam and Reservoir, and contractors worked all day Saturday and through the night to construct underflow dams and build a gravel access road so that vacuum trucks can remove the crude oil at the dam sites,” OSPR spokesman Eric Laughlin said Sunday.
According to the newest estimates, approximately 4,500 gallons of oil spilled into the river from the tanker, which is designed to carry 6,000 gallons.
Twitchell Reservoir reportedly received 0.71 of an inch of rain from the recent storm.
Despite the rain, the containment boom “has held up well,” Laughlin said Monday.
Vacuum trucks were working to remove the crude oil and mixture of oil and water at other locations.
“They’ve been doing that all day,” Laughlin said.
Reports of oil-covered wildlife prompted authorities to activate the Oiled Wildlife Care Network.
On Monday, OSPR representatives said a Western pond turtle and a belted kingfisher bird had been collected from the area.
“The status is they’re still being cared for and both of them survived,” Laughlin said.
Both were receiving veterinary care at Pacific Wildlife Care in Morro Bay.
The incident provided a test for a program to deploy trailers around the state for quick response to oil spills.
Santa Barbara County sent a trailer funded by OSPR and designed for quick response to the scene.
The boom in the trailer allowed crews to act quickly to contain the oil, Laughlin said.
“That was a real big success story,” he added.