A Schneider National Inc. 18-wheeler hauling 3,500 gallons of liquid sodium hydroxide wrecked Jan. 21 within feet of the Brigadier General Timothy C. Barrick Bridge in Sistersville, spilling about half of its contents down an embankment.
Although a small amount of the substance made it into a stream, which flows into another stream that empties into the Ohio River, sources noted that the chemical would have diluted immediately upon entering a large body of water and did not pose a safety threat to people. The mixture, commonly known as lye, is an acid that can cause irritation and burns upon contact with skin.
Coming from Axiall, north of New Martinsville, and bound for Glatfelter Company in Chillicothe, Ohio, the truck was heading south on state Route 2 when it reportedly struck a pothole and the driver lost control. The spill came from the top, center of the tanker after impact with the guardrail broke off a two-inch cap.
TRUCK OVERTURNS-- Responders arrive shortly after this Schneider National Inc. truck hauling 3,500 gallons of a sodium hydroxide mixture wrecked on the Brigadier General Timothy Barrick Bridge, W.Va. Route 2 in Sistersville, spilling about half of its contents and causing the bridge to remain closed for hours. (Photo by Alex King)
Sistersville Chief of Police Ben Placer confirmed that the driver was not injured during the wreck, but he was taken to Wetzel County Hospital where testing determined he was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol. He was, however, cited for failure to maintain control of his vehicle.
The accident occurred shortly after 3 p.m., causing the bridge to be closed and traffic to be diverted until about midnight. During that nine-hour period the leak was sealed by teams from Momentive and Axiall, and cleanup was handled by an environmental cleanup crew as well as first responders. The truck was lifted to an upright position, the rest of its contents were safely funneled into another truck, and it was towed to a storage area until morning.
Office of Emergency Management (OEM) Director Tom Cooper said that AA Supply, LLC in New Martinsville brought in absorbent materials, which were then laid out by firefighters on scene to stop much of the substance from flowing into the river.
"They were there pretty quickly, and I think that's what kept much of it out of the river," he said of AA Supply. "That helped."
Responders included: Sistersville EMS, Sistersville Volunteer Fire Department, Sistersville Police Department, Tyler County Office of Emergency Management, the Department of Environmental Protection, the Department of Highways, Sistersville Street Crew, Momentive, Axiall, Paden City Volunteer Fire Company, Paden City Police Department. Wetzel County responders also redirected traffic out state Route 180 while the road was closed.