A huge sulfuric acid spill left a messy morning commute Tuesday for anybody driving in downtown Nashville.
The immediate danger has passed, but crews were still working Tuesday evening to reduce the environmental impact along Interstate 24 at James Robertson Parkway and Interstate Drive.
Officials said a tanker hauling 48,000 pounds of liquid sulfuric acid spilled on eastbound I-24 after it left the Nyrstar plant, located near Zinc Plant Road and Cumberland Drive in Clarksville. The interstate was closed for nearly 12 hours as the surface was cleaned and determined safe for traffic.
Crews used lime to neutralize the acid, and police said the leftover lime is causing a substantial amount of dust. So, drivers are advised to still use extreme caution while driving through the area.
Engineers with the Tennessee Department of Transportation took samples Tuesday to determine what level of impact the acid would have on the driving surface.
"We took some sample plugs back to our labs and have put some high-strength sulfuric acid to test if there would be any long-term damage. It's kind of an unusual situation to get this much material spilled on a main freeway," said TDOT Chief Engineer Paul Degges.
If the crews determine they need to remove the asphalt as well, they will likely dig it up, melt it down and replace it on the road.
"We're letting the hazmat team be the lead on getting the bulk of the material up. Right now, they have excavators out there removing the contaminated soil. Once the hazmat crew clears that up, we'll be looking at it and should have some answers back from our materials and test labs," Degges said.
The tanker truck is listed as belonging to Palm Freight Systems Inc. of La Vergne. Its driver was treated for exposure to the acid when he stopped on I-24 at James Robertson Parkway, and the driver of a nearby vehicle also complained of possible exposure symptoms.
John Menzigian, a hazardous chemical response specialist, told Channel 4 News that sulfuric acid does not pose a risk to tires, however it is corrosive to metal and can, therefore, damage the body of a car.
Menzigian said anyone who drove through the area should to take their vehicle through a commercial car wash, because the amount of water used will safely remove the chemical.
"We are grateful to the hard working emergency crews for their quick response to contain and clean up the scene and we are particularly thankful that there were no serious injuries," Jeff Peterson, president of Palm Freight Systems, said in a statement.
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