RUMFORD — A Dead River Co. tanker spilled an estimated 180 gallons of diesel fuel Thursday night in the parking lot of Circle K on Bridge Street after overflowing the underground tank while filling it, a state official said Friday afternoon in Augusta.

Karl Wilkins, acting communications director of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, said it’s too early in DEP’s investigation to determine what caused the spill — whether it was operator error or a malfunction.

He said he also didn’t know if any fuel got into the nearby Androscoggin River through a catch basin near the fuel station and the convenience store’s fuel pumps.

“All of our DEP cleanup work that can be done has been done,” Wilkins said. “We cleaned it up as best we could. There is a chance that some of it got into the river because it got into the catch basin, but nothing was observed on the river.”

However, he said that because the river is iced over, any diesel fuel that may have reached the Androscoggin would have seeped under the ice.

“There’s no real good way to estimate how much of the 180 gallons was absorbed with the SpeedyDry, but most of it was collected and cleaned up,” Wilkins said.

Diesel fuel would leave a sheen on the water if it wasn’t frozen, and would eventually be broken down by exposure to air, he said. Gasoline would evaporate but diesel fuel doesn’t do that, he said. And diesel fuel isn’t as heavy as crude oil, so it wouldn’t sink to the river bottom, Wilkins said.

“Inside the catch basin, I’m sure there is some sediment, so if anything did get in there, that would absorb it,” he said.

The incident happened sometime before 6:21 p.m. Thursday. A passerby saw fluids going across the parking lot, thought it was gasoline and quickly drove to the fire station to alert firefighters.

When they investigated, they learned it was a large diesel fuel spill and called for more manpower to help contain it. Store employees had partially contained the spill and were keeping customers from driving into it.

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