Fuel leak: Cleanup crews used booms to try to skim diesel fuel out of Hominy Creek, but many citizens reported seeing and smelling the fuel beyond the containment measures in the French Broad River. Photo courtesy of Hartwell Carson, Western North Carolina Alliance

On Feb. 15, roughly 5,000 gallons of fuel oil spilled in West Asheville, much of it flowing into Hominy Creek and the French Broad River. The source was an above-ground tank owned by Harrison Construction, which could face fines from the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources as well as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Meanwhile, as crews tried containing and cleaning up the toxins, the news generated a wealth of local media coverage and reactions. Here’s a sample of what citizens had to say via various websites.

“Seriously, it's gross what's being dumped into the river right now. There will be hell to pay for this.” — Barry Summers

“Hell to pay? Most polluters get off with a slap on the wrist at most. Our state environmental agency is effectively hobbled by those in charge in Raleigh now — defanged through repeated budget cuts — and polluters are virtually never forced to make a thorough cleanup (something that has to happen quickly before contaminants disperse).” — Susan Andrew

“There's a very long history in these parts of polluters getting away with gross neglect and contamination. … It's not just the current crop of legislators that has allowed this issue to fester. BOTH sides have sullied hands.” — D. Dial

“Isn't there something we can do, as a town, to bring legal recourse against this company? A petition, or something? This is serious business — it's moments like these where, as citizens, we need to enact justice. If they can't manage their crude oil stash, they shouldn't be in business. Their licenses ought to be revoked outright.” — K.

“If you like this and the coal ash leak, you are going to love fracking!” — Tom Williams

“It's all about accountability. This company needs to be responsible for the cleanup in addition to a substantial fine. They need to be made an example of, those that pollute our resources with their irresponsible business practices. It doesn't need to be swept under the carpet like the issues with Duke Energy.” — Eric Knopf

“5,000 gallons sounds like a lot to someone driving a Subaru, but considering the size of the French Broad River and how many millions of gallons are going by it’s not that big of a deal. A one-time accident is nothing to write your mama up North about.” — Mike Waddell

“It was hard enough to get adequate environmental protection under a Democratic statehouse. It is utterly impossible now. Duke’s coal ash from their Skyland plant threatens the French Broad River. And given the way the state has handled the Dan River disaster, I have little hope that the Hominy/French Broad oil spill will be taken care of properly. I really want to be wrong about that.” — Heather Rayburn

“This was a big frack-up and was not handled properly by the criminal company (Harrison) or the EPA or the DENR or the cleanup crew — or crews. Seems to me that the response was very mellow, way too weak, and came far too late.” — Susan

About Jake Frankel
Jake Frankel is an award-winning journalist who enjoys covering a wide range of topics, from politics and government to business, education and entertainment.

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