Acid cleanup on I-85 to resume Wednesday - FOX Carolina 21

Acid cleanup on I-85 to resume Wednesday; no threat to the public

Posted: Updated:
The new specialized tanker truck arrives. (May 13, 2014/FOX Carolina) The new specialized tanker truck arrives. (May 13, 2014/FOX Carolina)
The weigh station is closed as crews work to clean up the acid leak. (May 12, 2014/FOX Carolina) The weigh station is closed as crews work to clean up the acid leak. (May 12, 2014/FOX Carolina)
More dry ice is brought in for the leaking tanker. (May 13, 2014/FOX Carolina) More dry ice is brought in for the leaking tanker. (May 13, 2014/FOX Carolina)
TOWNVILLE, SC (FOX Carolina) -

Anderson County Emergency Management crews are working to clean up a hydrogen chloride leak from a tractor-trailer more than 24 hours after it was reported.

The leak was reported at a weigh station along Interstate 85 near mile marker 9 in Anderson County, not far from Penny Lane Monday morning.

A passing motorist noticed the tanker leaking and was able to notify the driver, who stopped at the weigh station to assess the damage, Capt. Matthew Littleton said. He said authorities were notified about 8:30 a.m. Monday.

Crews determined the leak is from a valve on the tank they cannot shut off. While they waited for the new truck to arrive, they took care of the tanker, ensuring there is no threat to the public.

Crews will work to transfer the acid between the two tankers sometime Wednesday morning, according to the South Carolina Highway Patrol. Troopers are warning drivers that traffic will be delayed between mile markers 1 and 14 along I-85 on both the north and southbound sides during the process.

Initially the slowdown was slated for 1:20 p.m. on Tuesday but troopers said it was pushed back until Wednesday because of the hot weather.

Officials said crews were only able to work in 10 minute increments and because of the heat it became a safety issue.

They are planning to make the acid transfer on Wednesday morning, possible around 7:30 p.m.

Crews will be monitoring the leak overnight.

Crews are keeping the tanker cool by covering it with dry ice. At some point, they will offload the acid, which is in liquid form inside the tank. The acid could be seen evaporating out of tank in small plumes Monday, appearing white when it's mixed with the dry ice.

The leak's vapor is not flammable, but emergency crews said they are prepared to shut down the interstate if the need arises.

Firefighters and HAZMAT crews had to wait for a specialized tanker from Houston to arrive to help offload the acid, Littleton said. The specialized truck arrived about 8:30 a.m. Tuesday but crews do not yet know how long it will take to transfer the load.

Littleton said the gas is corrosive and could make people sick if inhaled. The safety zone is 300 feet.

He said eight homes were evacuated Monday, and several other residents were given the option to evacuate, but have since returned home.

"I smelled a bad smell," said Evay Freeman. "It smelled like sewer, and it was really bad."

Freeman was evacuated for several hours Monday as she lives close to the station. She said she went to the Red Cross shelter where she was fed until crews said it was safe to return home.

The Red Cross of the Western Carolinas said they will reopen the shelter at Double Springs Baptist Church in Townville at 2 p.m. as a precaution for residents in the area while crews transfer the chemical from one truck to the other. They said the shelter will remain open as long as it is necessary.

Red Cross officials said they will continue to assess the situation to see if additional support is needed.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, hydrochloric acid is a colorless to slightly yellow gas with a pungent, irritating odor, but it is shipped as a liquefied compressed gas. FOX Carolina's crew at the scene said little puffs of gas could be seen evaporating from the tanker truck.

The CDC said symptoms of exposure to the gas include irritation of the nose, throat, larynx; coughing or choking; and dermatitis. Read more here.

The State Transport Police is investigating the incident. Additionally, Anderson County has help from Oconee, Pickens, and Greenville counties, the Highway Patrol, Department of Transportation, Department of Health and Environmental Control and the Environmental Protection Agency during the transfer to ensure its success and safety for those involved and in the area.

Littleton said though the interstate is open, drivers may experience some delays during transfer period.

A representative of the sheriff's office said there is no threat to the public at this time.

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