Transformer struck by box truck catches fire, leaks mineral oil near Fairfax Co. creek

A damaged transformer leaks oil into a storm drain in Alexandria, Virginia. (Courtesy Dominion Energy)
A damaged transformer leaks oil into a storm drain in Alexandria, Virginia. (Courtesy Dominion Energy)

A Dominion Energy official says cleanup of a mineral oil spill near a Fairfax County, Virginia, creek has been completed on Saturday.

Power crews and fire officials have been scrambling to prevent the oil from spreading down Little Hunting Creek ever since a creek near Hybla Valley since Friday, when the oil started leaking from a transformer that had caught fire behind a supermarket after it was struck by a box truck.

Dominion Energy spokeswoman Peggy Fox said a transformer box behind a Shoppers Food in the 7600 block of Richmond Highway was damaged when one of the supermarket’s box trucks backed into the unit and drove off, initially without reporting it. Oil began to leak from the transformer.

At around 2 p.m., a serviceman responding to reports of a power outage found the damaged transformer had been knocked off the concrete pad it usually sat on. While the technician was on site, the transformer failed and set the patch of oil on fire.

An emergency dispatch from Fairfax County Fire and Rescue responded to the fire and quickly got the fire under control, then worked with crews from Dominion to contain the spilled oil.

Dominion estimates that around 247 gallons of oil spilled into a nearby storm drain, which feeds into a concrete-lined stream channel in Little Hunting Creek.

Clean up crews stayed on the scene until midnight Friday, then returned on Saturday to continue containment efforts.

“Additional booms were placed at several locations in the concrete channel downstream of the storm drain outfall,” Fox said.

Dominion said they will continue to monitor the area as needed and containment equipment is still at the site.

Virginia State Sen. Scott Surovell, D-36th District, said monitoring could last weeks because the area was environmentally sensitive.

“This also underscores how important it is for us to update our stormwater infrastructure,” Surovell said on Facebook. “Modern [infrastructure] would have likely kept this out of the creek.”

Below is a map of the area where the transformer was damaged.

Zeke Hartner

Zeke Hartner is a digital writer/editor who has been with WTOP since 2017. He is a graduate of North Carolina State University’s Political Science program and an avid news junkie.

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