HANCOCK COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Crews worked throughout Thursday to open highway 607 at I-10 after an overturned tanker the day before led to a hazmat situation. Parts of exit two were closed for more than 24 hours, but re-opened shortly before 6 p.m.
The accident happened Wednesday afternoon and fortunately didn't cause any injury. What it did cause was a huge headache for drivers when it shut down the interstate. By Wednesday night, I-10 was back up and running, leaving highway 607 still closed.
The area was busy with activity at the I-10 interchange, but the activity wasn't traffic. Dozens of workers and clean up crews were hustling to clear a potentially dangerous situation.
"Many of these crews out here did not go home and sleep. They've been out here since one o'clock yesterday afternoon," said Corporal Benjamin Seibert with the Mississippi Highway Patrol.
The long hours were being spent uprighting an overturned tanker truck carrying a hazardous chemical. The fumes caused the interstate to shut down temporarily, and was a nightmare scenario for Seibert and the Highway Patrol.
"The last thing we want to do is shut down interstate 10. At all costs, we try to keep I-10 open," said Seibert.
But, according to Ernie Shirley with the State Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), the fumes from the spill posed too much of a risk for drivers.
"All of our accidents are serious, but this product is a tough product," said Shirley.
Readings by MDEQ showed the chemical's pH level at around 12.5, which Shirley said is very dangerous. On top of the corrosivity, Shirley said the chemical was also flammable and toxic when airborne. Officials said the chemical was dimethylaminopropylamine, a material used to make personal care products including cosmetics and soaps.
Several dampening techniques and a change in wind course resulted in clear readings by MDEQ, which led to the interstate reopening. Then it was on the offloading and cleanup phases. The chemical was carefully transferred to another tanker, then the surrounding soil and pavement had to be excavated to remove any trace of the chemical.
Certainly a busy night and day for those working the scene. Shirley said his department usually works two to three similar scenarios per month, and that the situation was not to be taken lightly.
"I wouldn't call it the top of the scale, but it was a significant event," said Shirley.
According to Seibert, the event had been conducted as smoothly as possible thanks to the help of multiple agencies.
In addition to the state agencies, The US Environmental Services, and multiple fire departments helped with the cleanup.