AUGUSTA — Utility crews and state engineers are monitoring city water supplies and Bond Brook after a loaded tanker spilled hundreds of gallons of a paper-making chemical Friday morning in an Interstate 95 crash that snarled traffic for miles.

Maine Department of Environmental Protection spokeswoman Samantha DePoy-Warren said the truck was hauling 3,800 gallons of Nopcote. The chemical, which contains calcium stearate, is a finishing agent used in paper making.

Crews from the DEP and hazardous waste disposal company Clean Harbors were able to offload about 3,400 gallons of the chemical from the tanker Friday in an operation that kept one lane of the interstate closed virtually all day.

Still, they were unable to keep approximately 400 gallons from spilling into a nearby ditch that feeds Bond Brook.

“Dams were set up by DEP responders to prevent the product from reaching Bond Brook, but apparently an unknown portion of product went from the ditch into the stream and created a skim milk white plume,” DePoy-Warren said.

The chemical threatens three wells that supply water to the Greater Augusta Utility District, district General Manager Brian Tarbuck said.

The three wells were immediately shut down, Tarbuck said. Two wells farthest from the crash were turned back on Friday afternoon after officials determined they were not threatened.

The third well, underneath the Bond Brook Bridge, will remain off until Tuesday when the utility district is fully staffed.

“Everything I’ve seen so far there’s no reason to believe there’s anything in that spill that would cause short- or long-term health effects,” Tarbuck said. “We just turned the wells off out of an abundance of caution. There’s no reason to be alarmed.”

DEP officials were concerned the chemical, which has a pH of 12.2, would have an adverse impact on the stream and organisms.

“But our initial testing shows the pH (in the stream) is between 7 and 8, which is fairly average,” DePoy-Warren said. “The department will be monitoring the stream to see if there is an impact.”

The public will be alerted should health or safety concerns arise, DePoy-Warren said.

The crash occurred shortly before 2 a.m. Friday just north of an overpass above Bond Brook when the truck left the right side of the road and tipped onto its side.

The truck driver, Rudy Baldeo, 39, of New Jersey, was treated for non life-threatening injuries at MaineGeneral Medical Center in Augusta and released, Maine State Police spokesman Steve McCausland said.

“State police say he likely fell asleep,” McCausland said.

Traffic was reduced to one lane for much of the day as crews continued the cleanup effort.

Northbound traffic crawled — with backups stretching about 8 miles south to the Interstate 295 interchange in Gardiner — more than 13 hours after the crash.

The truck, owned by Jersey City-based Langer Transport Corp, was headed to the Verso paper mill in Jay, McCausland said.

“Troopers continue to investigate the crash and no final decision on charges has been made,” he said.

Tarbuck said the utilities board has a meeting next week, during which it is scheduled to talk about developing alternative sources of water.

Friday’s spill highlights the urgency of those discussions, Tarbuck said.

“If this was gasoline, we’d be in a world of hurt,” he said. “We’re very, very lucky. It’s a good wakeup call for us to consider other backup water supplies.”

Craig Crosby–621-5642

[email protected]

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