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UPDATE: Tanker truck overturns, spills corrosive chemical

Highway 126 overpass remains closed, traffic detoured around spill

Posted: June 10, 2014 9:28 a.m.
Updated: June 10, 2014 12:32 p.m.

The wheels of an overturned tanker truck are visible on the Newhall Ranch Road/Highway 126 overpass over The Old Road in northwestern Santa Clarita Valley on Tuesday. Signal photo by Jim Holt

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A tanker truck took a freeway off-ramp too fast Tuesday morning, flipped onto its side and spewed 50-70 gallons of a highly corrosive liquid onto the Highway 126 overpass over Interstate 5.

The spill of “clay acid” around 8:40 a.m. shut down the lanes in both directions over the I-5. Some of the corrosive liquid got into the storm drains, officials said Monday afternoon.

“We do have acid in the (storm) drains according to the people at the scene,” said Caltrans spokesman Patrick Chandler.

Highway 126 runs parallel to the Santa Clara River from the Santa Clarita Valley to the Pacific Ocean. The storm drains empty into the river.

“We want to prevent (the contaminant) from entering any waterway,” Chandler said. “We’re going to use whatever equipment we have to remove it.”

“This is our responsibility,” he said, referring to the section of road where the spill occurred. “We have a hazardous materials contractor at the scene.”

The California Environmental Protection Agency is monitoring the spill and the cleanup.

“The EPA is aware of the spill,” spokesman Nahal Mogharabi said in an email. “The L.A. County Hazmat and CHP are the leads on this issue.”

'Unsafe speed'
The tanker truck was traveling from Bakersfield to Port Hueneme, according to a collision report from California Highway Patrol Officer John Lutz.

It exited the southbound Interstate 5 onto the westbound Highway 126 “at an unsafe speed” and overturned the tractor and trailers, which came to rest on their left side across the westbound lanes of the overpass, Lutz wrote in the report. No other vehicles were involved.

The liquid contents of one of the tanks was visible pouring from it in aerial shots broadcast by a KTLA-TV news helicopter Monday morning.

The truck’s driver, 44-year-old Christian A. Besamat, was not injured in the crash.

Both the public and emergency responders were kept well back from the area during the first two hours after the crash. Eastbound and westbound Highway 126 remained closed at the freeway overpass late into Tuesday.

Northbound lanes of The Old Road, which passes under the overpass, were also closed. A motorist reported traffic was flowing smoothly over detour routes by 11:30 a.m.

The hazardous materials placard attached to the rolled-over tractor and trailers clearly displayed a UN2922 diamond-shaped sign, indicating the tanks’ contents are corrosive and pose a health risk when ingested, touched or inhaled.

Health concerns
Initial reports indicated the tankers were carrying fuel, but county Fire Department Inspector Rick Flores described the tanker’s contents as “clay acid,” which is not flammable but is corrosive.

Fire officials called in the Health Hazardous Materials crew, along with Caltrans cleanup crews, to lay down sand on the spill about 9:45 a.m., Flores said.

“It does not burn, but you have to avoid any contact with skin,” Flores said.

Officials at the scene issued an advisory to businesses in the area and to the Newhall California Highway Patrol office, located on The Old Road, to keep windows closed and to “shelter employees.”

A check with federal officials at the Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, a branch of the U.S. Department of Transportation, shows emergency response crews followed the recommended protocol for spills involving UN2922 corrosive liquid.

“First responders must immediately isolate the spill in all directions by at least 150 feet,” said administration spokesman Joe Delcambre in Washington, D.C.

'Avoid inhalation'
"You must avoid inhalation, ingestion and skin contact with the toxic material, as it may cause severe burns to skin and eyes,” he said. “Effects of inhalation may be delayed.

“First responders must wear protective clothing with self-contained breathing apparatus,” Delcambre said.

Cleanup crew members in hazardous materials suits fitted with breathing apparatus were on the scene examining the overturned tanker by late morning.

Shortly before noon, a crane was called to the crash site in an effort to right the overturned truck that remained on its side for most of the day, Chandler said.
on Twitter @jamesarthurholt






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