MARY JANE FARMER / HERALD DEMOCRAT
Specially-attired hazardous materials clean-up crews work to neutralize hydrochloric acid spilled onto the U.S. 82 roadway when the tractor-trailer turned onto its side Monday morning.
MARY JANE FARMER / HERALD DEMOCRAT This is an upclose look at the haz-mat crew members who worked to neutralize a dangerous acid that spilled onto U.S. 82 Monday morning. They are using sodium bicarbonate, more commonly known as baking soda, to make the area safe before allowing more clean-up work to be done at the crash site.
SADLER — An overturned tractor-trailer spilled hydrochloric acid across U.S. Highway 82, and the resulting clean-up shut down the highway between here and Sherman for the better part of Monday’s daylight hours.
Texas Department of Public Safety Trooper Mark Tackett said that it was at 8 a.m. they were called to work the crash of the semi-rig, which was about halfway between FM 901 and State Highway 289, west of Sadler, in the westbound traffic lanes. Since that was the time school was starting, one of the first orders of business was to establish a way parents and school buses could get the students to and from the schools.
Paramedics, with help from several fire departments aiding with traffic control, transported the driver, 40-year-old Travis Williams of Altoona, Ala., to Texoma Medical Center with minor injuries, Tackett reported. Meanwhile, DPS shut down U.S. Highway 82 traffic in both directions and called for a certified hazardous material clean-up crew. Tackett explained that hydrochloric acid is dangerous in that, if it is inhaled, it could cause serious injury.
The road reopened between 8 and 9 p.m. Monday. Cause of the crash was under investigation and emergency officials wouldn’t speculate early Monday evening as to the reason the truck left the highway and flipped on its side.
Early in the day, Texas Department of Transportation employees set up and manned barricades at FM 901, SH 289, and all the smaller roads within, leading to a 150-foot minimum radius around the truck and trailer. The residents of the nearest house, directly across the highway from the crash and spill, were gone, but Fire Operation Unit Leader Kevin Walton said emergency officials stayed in touch with the family to let them know when they could return home.
The 2005 Peterbuilt rig belonged to Action Resource of Hanceville, Ala., Tackett said.
The tractor and trailer had to, for safety purposes, remain with its passenger side pressed against the ground until later in the day. Walton said the trailer, a tanker, was carrying about 4,500 gallons of the acid, and that all of it spilled except approximately 700 gallons. Later in the day that had been transferred onto another tanker, after which tow trucks uprighted the tractor and trailer.
Action Resource assisted in the clean-up. Walton said one of the haz-mat clean-up crews worked to re-mediate, or neutralize, the chemical on the pavement, using sodium bicarbonate. The second crew re-mediated the grass and ditch along the north shoulder and farther on both sides of the highway as was required.
Firefighters from Whitesboro, Collinsville, Gordonville, and Sadler assisted. As they began in the morning, Walton said, the sun was out and helping remove the dangerous fumes, but then the clouds settled in and that slowed down the natural process. Winds were barely blowing.
The Environmental Protection Agency assisted and supervised the clean-up process. They had several people at the scene and an aircraft above, which monitored for toxic levels which could have been rising. The representative said the fumes above the crash never reached a dangerous level.