Chemical spill closes Buffalo Bridge
BUFFALO, W.Va. -- A tractor-trailer overturned and spilled an undetermined amount of a disinfectant chemical across the Buffalo Bridge in Putnam County on Friday.
The bridge and a 4-mile stretch of U.S. 35 from Hurricane Creek to the Mason County line shut down Friday night and reopened early Saturday morning, a Putnam County emergency services dispatcher said.
The box truck was carrying glutaraldehyde, a Dow Chemical product used mainly as a disinfectant for medical and dental equipment, said Frank Chapman, emergency services director for Putnam County.
Chapman said a few houses in the area were evacuated as a precaution but that officials did not believe the chemical posed a threat to people.
Hazmat crews had been trying to keep the chemical out of the Kanawha River, he said.
Glutaraldehyde is not flammable, but it is an irritant that can be mildly toxic, according to a Dow material-safety data sheet. Officials were concerned, though, about an undetermined amount that had spilled into a creek.
Diesel fuel also leaked onto the roadway, West Virginia Department of Transportation spokeswoman Carrie Bly said in a news release.
Several area fire departments and the Putnam County Sheriff's Department were on the scene Friday afternoon, a dispatcher with the Putnam County Ambulance Service said.
Betty Fellure, who lives near the bridge, said she was told the tractor-trailer was carrying chemicals and that emergency responders on the scene had asked people to stay in their vehicles. Fellure said she was told to stay in her home.
Several other vehicle accidents have occurred on this particular stretch of U.S. 35 near her home, she said.
Chapman had asked drivers to use W.Va. 62 to get from Putnam County to Mason County.
Road crews set up three roadblocks and turned people away about four miles from the incident. The crews were told not to let anyone through the roadblocks until areas could be checked for the chemical.
Mike Dorsey, homeland security and emergency response chief at the state Department of Environmental Protection, said the initial call about the incident reported incorrectly that it involved hydrogen sulfide, a rotten-egg-smelling chemical that is highly poisonous, corrosive, flammable and explosive.
Dorsey said investigators quickly discovered that the truck owned by Bridge Terminal Transport of Charlotte, N.C., was carrying 80 55-gallon drums of glutaraldehyde.
The West Virginia Department of Transportation said rain hindered cleanup efforts and officials were concerned that water might turn the chemical into a gas. It was not clear Friday night if that occurred.
"There was about a 1-foot-wide stream of stuff coming out of the back of the truck," Dorsey said.
Still, the Putnam emergency dispatcher said Friday night he was unsure how much of the chemical was spilled.
Staff writer Ken Ward Jr. contributed to this report.
Reach Travis Crum at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-5163.