The Cambrian

Biosolids spill in tractor-trailer crash south of Cambria

A tractor-trailer rig is seen resting on its side after a crash at Highway 1 and Highway 46 south of Cambria.
A tractor-trailer rig is seen resting on its side after a crash at Highway 1 and Highway 46 south of Cambria. jperryman@thetribunenews.com

A southbound tractor-trailer combination tipped over on its right side about 8:25 a.m. Friday, Oct. 23, at the intersection of highways 1 and 46. The accident dumped onto the roadway and its shoulder about 80,000 pounds of human biosolid waste from the Cambria wastewater treatment plant.

Organic-matter biosolids are recycled from sewage and used in agriculture. Some passersby who stopped at the scene said there was no foul odor.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s website at www3.epa.gov/region09/water/npdes/sludge.html defines the word “biosolids” as treated sewage sludge that meets EPA pollutant and pathogen requirements for land application and surface disposal. “Sewage sludge” is the solids separated from liquid during the treatment of municipal wastewater, including domestic septage.

According to a CHP report, Sergio Mercado Lepe, 45, of Wasco, was taking his trailer load to a waste-treatment facility in his hometown. Heading southbound on Highway 1, Lepe drove into the left-turn pocket leading to Highway 46. He apparently told investigators he couldn’t see the intersection due to heavy fog, but, according to the report, “abruptly made a left turn onto SR 46 … at an excessive speed for roadway conditions (the fog).”

The CHP report said none of the human biosolid waste went into nearby Perry Creek.

Cal Trans and firefighters responded to the scene for cleanup and traffic control. With their help, the company’s owner was able to clean up the waste spill. The county Health Department also was there.

The affected portion of the highway reopened about 11:30 a.m.

CHP officials are continuing their investigation.

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