Oct. 24--GULFPORT -- About 75 gallons of a byproduct of hydrochloric acid leaked from ruptured barrels being hauled Wednesday on U.S. 49 in an incident that temporarily shut down a section of highway just south of O'Neal Road.
The leak occurred when a driver hauling about 40 55-gallon drums of the substance braked suddenly and three of the barrels ruptured, Fire Chief Mike Beyerstedt said.
"One barrel was completely drained and a couple (of barrels) had leaks," he said. "The material was diluted with water, or we would have had a problem on our hands. It wasn't an imminent danger to life and health."
The highway was shut down as firefighters and the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality tried to find out what was being hauled, the possible dangers and how much had leaked.
The truck's driver, bound for Arkansas, parked in a vacant lot by a gas station on the northbound side of the highway. Work crews built a dike around the leaking area to keep the material from running into drains.
Exposure to large amounts of hydrochloric acid can damage skin and eyes and cause respiratory problems. Beyerstedt said it was a relief to learn the substance was diluted. Police, the Mississippi Highway Patrol and the Mississippi Department of Transportation also responded.
Firefighters donned protective gear to enter the back of the truck. They put the damaged containers in an upright position to stop the leaks. A cleanup crew remained at the scene late Wednesday afternoon about seven hours after the incident was first reported.
"I'm sure MDOT will be checking to see why that load shifted so much," Beyerstedt said. "The company will have to pay for the cleanup."
The name of the company that owns the truck wasn't immediately available.
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