Truck Hauling Hazardous Waste Smashes Into Highway Bridge

Half of the roof and one side of a 45-foot semi-trailer were ripped off when the vehicle, loaded with 55-gallon drums of hazardous waste, smashed into a bridge on Interstate 40 outside of Flagstaff, AZ. Dozens of the drums were heavily damaged in the...


To access the remainder of this piece of premium content, you must be registered with Firehouse. Already have an account? Login

Register in seconds by connecting with your preferred Social Network.

OR

Complete the registration form.

Required
Required
Required
Required
Required
Required
Required
Required
Required
Required

Half of the roof and one side of a 45-foot semi-trailer were ripped off when the vehicle, loaded with 55-gallon drums of hazardous waste, smashed into a bridge on Interstate 40 outside of Flagstaff, AZ. Dozens of the drums were heavily damaged in the accident but no material was detected leaking to the environment. The incident took two days to resolve, requiring the closing of Interstate 40's westbound lanes.

The incident occurred when the driver of the fully loaded hazardous waste load apparently fell asleep. He received minor injuries in the violent crash, which destroyed the tractor and semi-trailer. The vehicle was placarded "Dangerous," and responding highway patrol officers could see the damaged drums of waste, due to the trailer being almost torn apart from the impact. They immediately closed Interstate 40, and summoned hazardous materials specialists.

6_98_truck1.jpg
Photo by Stephen L. Hermann
Cleaning up and repackaging dozens of 55-gallon drums of mixed hazardous wastes required the closing of both westbound lanes of Interstate 40 in northern Arizona.

 


6_98_truck2.jpg
Photo by Stephen L. Hermann
Although detection instruments found no apparent chemical leaks, deputy sheriffs evacuated several dozen residences located within a half mile of the incident, due to the severe damage to some of the hazardous waste containers.

 

Arizona has no county fire departments, and the Arizona Department of Public Safety's (DPS) Highway Patrol Bureau is the primary source of state-on-scene coordinators under the state's plan for hazardous materials emergency response. A commercial vehicle safety specialist was dispatched to the scene from Flagstaff and a hazmat specialist flown in from Phoenix, some 140 miles away. The helicopter carrying the Phoenix DPS specialist landed right on the closed lanes of the interstate.

The highway patrol district commander coordinated with the Coconino County Sheriff's Department, and arranged for evacuation of several dozen residences located within a half mile of the accident scene. Sheriff's deputies drove from house to house, notifying the residents, while highway patrolmen rerouted traffic off of Interstate 40. The sheriff's department further coordinated public information releases to the media, while DPS specialists worked within the scene itself.

The initial scene characterization entry was made from upwind with monitoring and detection instruments. Although there were clearly some severely damaged and punctured packages in the trailer, no visible evidence of leaks was encountered and the instruments did not detect any spilled materials. It was felt that the snow on the ground, and the cool air temperature that day helped prevent the formation of any significant vapors from any small amounts of product which may have leaked.

6_98_truck3.jpg
Photo by Stephen L. Hermann
The trucking company summoned a cleanup contractor, which utilized 85-gallon salvage or recovery drums to overpack the damaged containers, a common practice in transportation incidents.

 


6_98_truck4.jpg
Photo by Stephen L. Hermann
U.S. Department of Transportation hazmat transportation regulations specifically provide for this type of "overpack" operation, and require the new outside drums to be properly marked and labeled for their damaged contents.

 

Once it was determined that the scene was stable, the trucking company was notified that it was now their responsibility to clean up the accident and make the hazardous waste packages safe for transportation. U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) hazmat regulations contain specific provisions dealing with use of a "salvage drum" or "recovery drum" to overpack leaking packages so they can continue on to their destination.

The 49 Code Of Federal Regulations (49 CFR), Section 173.3(c), states: "Packages of hazardous materials that are damaged or found leaking and hazardous materials that have been spilled or leaked may be placed in a metal removable head salvage drum that is compatible with the lading and shipped or repackaging or disposal under the following conditions:

This content continues onto the next page...