Dump truck spill results in charges

COVINGTON — The owner of a dump truck that spilled rocks along U.S. Highway 278 in late August is unhappy about reimbursement charges for clean-up from the city of Covington.

The city billed Benny Howard of Howard Hauling of Newborn $1,160 for an incident on Aug. 16 when the latch on a dump truck driven by one of his workers broke, resulting in rocks being strewn along the highway for about a quarter of a mile, from West to Pace streets. Howard said about half a ton of rocks spilled.

“I understand I have to pay a fine, that I do understand, but not that much, no, not that much,” Howard said during public comments at the Covington City Council’s Sept. 3 meeting.

The city had 13 workers on site for two hours and used city equipment to clean up the mess, which blocked the eastbound lanes on the busy road, said Deputy City Manager Billy Bouchillon. Workers from the water, street and police departments were pulled from their duties to assist.

“That seems like a lot of people,” said Councilwoman Hawnethia Williams.

“It was a lot of rock,” Bouchillon said. “And it was a long area, and it was on a Friday afternoon on 278.”

The charges are based on man hours and equipment used, Bouchillon said.

Howard, who said he came to the site to help with clean up, said only four or five rocks spilled at a time. But Bouchillon said the city would not have responded if it had only been a few rocks, noting that the highway is the state Department of Transportation’s responsibility. The DOT’s response time would have been four to five hours, he said.

Mayor Ronnie Johnston said the charge is to cover the expense of cleaning up the rocks and is not a fine.

“All I can say at this point is I hear what you’re saying. I have no problem looking back at it to make sure we are charging you fairly. But as you said, you have a responsibility of sharing the expense for cleaning up the mess that you put on 278,” he said.

Bouchillon said Thursday the city is reducing the charge to $800 and will allow Howard to pay in installments over a three-month period.