Acid Cargo Tank Overturns On Highway

An estimated 3,500 gallons of sulfuric acid was safely unloaded from a highway acid cargo tank, with no injuries, after it overturned on a central Arizona highway enroute to a copper mine. Company officials from the trucking company that owned the tank...


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Due to the possibility of accidental exposure to the spilled acid, the DEQ representative required that the carrier remove all of the dirt containing any spilled acid. Arrangements were made by the carrier with the copper mine where the acid was going to accept the acid contaminated dirt, and the entire operation was accomplished before sunset that same day. The 3,500 gallons of sulfuric acid was pumped into the vacuum truck without incident, and the scene was turned over to the heavy-duty wrecker operators to upright the now-empty acid cargo tank.

Lessons Learned

  1. Hazardous materials leaks can develop in otherwise stable packages if valves or fittings are opened.
  2. Needed product-transfer equipment may not be available for hours at a remote scene.
  3. Allowing the carrier to make decisions that may result in additional spills and costs avoids subsequent "finger pointing" and arguments.
  4. In the absence of a hazmat response team, almost complete reliance needs to be put on carrier personnel for technical decisions and operations.

Stephen L. Hermann is hazardous materials coordinator for the Arizona Department of Public Safety.