The smell of diesel fuel wafted along South Almaden Boulevard on Saturday, as firefighters and others struggled to stop the liquid from flowing from a rooftop tank. It was a race against the clock. At 8am Sunday, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon was scheduled to take to the street—that street.

All told, about 1,300 gallons of fuel spilled from the roof of the ten-story AT&T building. The fuel was for use by the building’s generator in case of an emergency, and the tank itself holds just 100 gallons. The problem is that the tank is connected to a 50,000-gallon tank beneath the building’s parking lot. The lower tank ensures that the rooftop tank is full at all times, by pumping the diesel fuel up to it. A building engineer was able to turn off the pump, but for some reason, the fuel kept flowing.

Firefighters and clean-up crews spent twelve hours trying to stop the flow and clean up the mess. They had a deadline, 8:00 am Sunday, when the marathon was scheduled to begin. They closed down the street and got to work, absorbing what they could of the fuel with special sand and vacuuming up the rest.  The job is not completely done, with some of the fuel escaping to the storm drains, from where it can reach the river and the Bay. Some of that will still have to be cleaned up today.

By 5am Sunday, however, the street was clean and cleared, and the fifth annual marathon could proceed as planned.
Read More at NBC Bay Area.