Tanker carrying ethanol overturns

By Keith Boles - bio | email feedback

MAMMOTH SPRING, AR (KAIT) --What could have been a huge, possibly fatal fire or an enormous bio-disaster was prevented this morning just outside Mammoth Spring.

A tanker truck carrying 75 hundred gallons of ethanol ran off Highway 63 South, rolled on its side and began leaking.

I learned Monday that 63 is one of the main transit routes for chemicals from Springfield... South.

And this particular stretch of highway has seen more than its fair share of accidents involving hazardous materials.

"Unfortunately this curve has, we've been here many times. This is nothing new. This little stretch of road here is pretty bad on big trucks." Says Heath Everett from the Fulton County Haz-Mat team.

Ethanol is a volatile liquid commonly known as pure grain alcohol.

And the tanker was hauling a lot of it when it wrecked.

Everett, "What we had here was an 18 Wheeler traveling South on Highway 63 out of Mammoth. He misjudged this curve and wound up in the ditch. He was carrying 75 hundred gallons of ethanol."

The tanker was operated by FMC Transport out of Willow Springs, Missouri, and joins the parade of chemicals that move along this highway every day.

Everett, "This road is the major chemical thoroughfare from Springfield to Memphis. You got all that barge traffic to Memphis and they use this road to haul loads to the barges or from the barges."

Everett says they have worked accidents involving gas trucks, propane trucks and other materials including a truck load of cyanide all around and at this same accident site.

Monday's accident received responses from the Arkansas State Police, Highway Police, Fulton County Haz-Mat, Mammoth Springs Fire Department and State and Fulton County Highway Departments.

When the tanker finally came to rest it began to leak, nearly a thousand gallons.

Any haz-mat spill is obviously a big problem but this problem with this accident was  compounded by its location.

Everett, "We're on this slope so we've got chemical running down the ditch, but he also wrecked on a cross drain so the chemical is running under the road and coming out into this field so we've had to have 2 different points of containment."

Containment was done by plugging up the cross drain and covering up the other run off with dirt.

Then came the risky part of off loading the cargo to another truck but first they had to drill holes into the tank.

Crews used a hole saw to cut 6 inch diameter holes all along the tank then began to pump into a tanker from the same company.

Even with the tankers contents being pumped into another truck, the flash hazard still existed.

Everett, "We'll get wreckers in to move that truck and were fixing to bring in more dirt and more foam to cover the vapor up so we can let some of this traffic through."

Traffic was backed up for miles in either direction since many of the trucks had no place to turn around to bypass the accident.

Due to the large amount of leakage the ethanol pooling in the drain pipe would have to be pumped out and all the soil in the ditches and the pasture that received run off will have to be removed by a clean up crew.

The driver was taken to the Fulton County Hospital where his injuries were believed to be non life threatening. No word yet as to the actual cause of the accident and whether the driver would be cited or not.

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