David Bressler didn't know what to expect as he responded to a plea by the Pennsylvania State Police at 7:30 a.m. on June 6, 2019, to help clean up an accident and massive spill of lime along the West Branch of the Susquehanna River near Montgomery.
"I was the first one there from our company, and when I got to it, I could see the tractor-trailer was over the guard rail along the bank of the river. It was completely smashed," he said. "There was white powder everywhere -- it looked like a grenade had exploded."
While Bressler and his company are no stranger to cleaning up spill situations, this one was unique because of its proximity to the river.
"When we have an accident along the interstate, there is much more room to maneuver, but when you are right at the river's edge like that, there isn't much space to contain things," he said. "You have to act fast, clean it up and get it out of there before a rain comes through and washes it into the river or a strong wind blows the powder into the waterway."
Bressler's Garage, based in Loganton, joined forces with the Northridge Group, the state police, volunteer firefighters from the region, PennDOT, the state Department of Environmental Protection, county emergency management officials and a wide variety of others to attack the spill, spending the full day using excavators, skid steers, two cranes, roll-off trucks and a Super Vac Truck (according to Bressler, this is like a massive shop vac mounted on the back of a truck) to get the job done.
After removing the vehicles and an estimated 45,000-50,000 pounds of lime mixed with some spilled diesel fuel, the company brought in approximately 400 tons of backfill to remediate the bank heading down toward the river.
In the past year, between Bressler's and Northridge, an estimated $175,000 in expenses have been accrued due to the cleanup and follow-up work. Bressler's has received just $1,030 -- what it could get from scrapping the truck and trailer and $30 from PennDOT for towing of the vehicles.
The driver has completely vanished, the trucking company he worked for has also disappeared and the insurance company tied to the trucking group has since denied the claim.
"Stuff like this goes with the territory in some cases, but not to this scale. Sometimes, people aren't properly insured," he said. "There are also a lot of transient people who drive truck. When something happens, they just disappear."
Research done by Bressler and his co-workers found that the truck was owned by a company called Keep Rolling Express LLC of 20440 SW 296 St., Homestead, Fla. 33030. A call to the phone number connected to that address led to a short conversation with a woman who denied any connection to the company. The driver was injured and held at Geisinger for a period of time, but since has vanished. Further investigation found that Keep Rolling had an insurance policy with Progressive, but after some back-and-forth discussions with agents at the insurance company, Bressler was told that Progressive was going to deny the claim because they couldn't locate the driver and could get no information from the trucking company.
More than a year later, Bressler is left with dwindling options and a sizeable financial hurdle from the incident.
"Nobody likes to work for free. We have employees we need to pay along with insurance premiums and other expenses to cover," he said. "We are a family owned and operated business, and we can't survive if we are operating for free."
Despite the ongoing fiasco of dealing with all of this since the June 6, 2019, cleanup, Bressler admits he doesn't regret taking the call that morning.
"You can't have something like this lying next to the river. My family uses the river for recreation as much as anyone else -- perhaps moreso. You can't leave behind a mess like that which can have such a huge ripple effect downriver," he said. "We are researching every avenue we can, but we've just about exhausted all of the options we know about."
Anyone who may have a lead for Bressler can contact him at Bressler's Garage located at 2994 East Valley Road, Loganton, PA 17747. The phone number at the business is 800-807-4661. He can also be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Here is a photo gallery of the accident and cleanup efforts, provided by Bressler:
John Zaktansky is an award-winning journalist and avid promoter of the outdoors who loves camping, kayaking, fishing and hunting with the family.