BELGRADE — The wells at six residences near the site of a tanker truck crash — which resulted in a spectacular fire that burned for hours Wednesday — are being tested to ensure the water in them is safe to drink.

Testing was underway Thursday, as was the cleanup effort at the intersection of Augusta Road, which is also Route 27, and Depot Road, also known as routes 8 and 11, in Belgrade. An excavator was on site, scooping up potentially contaminated soil into a roll-off container to be hauled off from the wreckage area, including the yards and driveways of residences where the two vehicles ended up following the crash.

Manchester-based J and S Oil, owner of the tractor-trailer carrying the fuel, is taking the lead in the cleanup efforts, according to David Madore, director of communications and acting deputy commisioner of the state Department of Environmental Protection, though the state agency will remain involved in the cleanup and testing for potential contamination.

Following direction from DEP technicians, firefighters let the fuel fire burn out over the course of the day Wednesday, rather than try to extinguish the flames immediately. The fuel was allowed to keep burning as part of the effort to limit contamination.

Three or four state environmental protection agency technicians were at the site Thursday, though they got a later start than planned because of the morning’s snowfall, according to Madore.

He said the wells of six residences in the area would be tested for contamination, as would a pond behind Belgrade Canoe and Kayak and a field with standing water in it near the crash site.

The accident shut down a portion of the road and forced the evacuation of the local post office and nearby homes. It occurred at around 8:45 a.m. Wednesday between the Belgrade post office and Belgrade Canoe and Kayak.

Steve McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety, said in a news release that the tanker truck was hauling 9,500 gallons of No. 2 fuel oil.

He said the SUV was stopped at a stop sign at the intersection and its driver, Robert Engdahl, 74, of Winthrop, drove in front of the oncoming tractor-trailer, which police said was headed north. The 2005 GMC Yukon struck the tanker truck, which overturned and caught fire.

Engdahl and the driver of the tractor-trailer, Mark Tuttle, 54, of Albion, were taken to MaineGeneral Medical Center in Augusta with minor injuries.

McCausland said state police cited Engdahl for failing to yield the right of way.

Belgrade Chief Dan Mackenzie said the crash resulted in a wall of flames along the road as spilled fuel blazed.

The tractor-trailer ended up, after the collision, in flames right across the street from the Belgrade post office. The flames were so hot they melted the siding on the front of the building. Firefighters hosed that end of the building down to make sure it didn’t also catch fire.

Steve Doherty, a regional spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service, said Thursday that officials had not assessed the damage yet, but it appeared to be limited to the outer shell and siding of the building. The post office was evacuated and workers watched the fire scene from the back parking lot.

“We feel very fortunate that, given the circumstances and size of this blaze, no one was killed,” Doherty said of the accident and resulting fire. “The postmaster couldn’t say enough about the local firefighters and the care they took to protect the building. We are back to normal operations (Thursday) and our thoughts and prayers are with the two drivers involved.”

Doherty said the post office remained open during most of the incident, but was inaccessible to the public because the fire had prompted closure of the road. He said no mail was damaged and though some carriers were delayed leaving the building, all the mail was delivered Wednesday.

The post office building and much of the surrounding area lost electricity because the fire ruptured power lines, but power was restored to the post office around 3:45 p.m. Wednesday.

Also returning to normal operations Thursday was the Belgrade Town Office.

Like the post office, the Town Office remained open after the accident, but it was inaccessible to the public because it was near the accident site and Route 27 was closed.

Town Manager Dennis Keschl said the office has a backup generator, so it still had electricity, but it lost phone lines and its internet connection for much of Wednesday. A selectmen’s meeting scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at the Town Office took place as scheduled.

Keschl praised the work of firefighters and others for their response to the spectacular fire.

“Our folks did a great job and the mutual-aid towns came in to provide great support too,” he said. “It was a very major, eye-catching incident; but, as with most fires, our chiefs were able to handle it. I’m glad they managed the situation well.”

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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