Tanker spills 1,000 gallons of mag chloride | AspenTimes.com

Tanker spills 1,000 gallons of mag chloride

Naomi Havlen
A trailer tanker carrying liquid magnesium chloride to be applied to dirt roads for dust suppression, overturned May 26, 2004, when its driver made an abrupt u-turn on Highway 82 at Watson Divide Road. The driver, an employee of GMCO Corporation of Rifle, was unhurt and managed to pump approximately 700 of the trailer's 1700 gallon load back to the truck's tank before the rest spilled out to the shoulder of the road. He was cited for careless driving by the State Patrol. Aspen Times photo/ Nick Saucier.

An estimated 1,000 gallons of magnesium chloride used to control dust on local dirt roads spilled alongside Highway 82 Wednesday morning when a tanker overturned.

The driver, an employee of Rifle-based GMCO Corp., was unhurt and managed to pump about 700 gallons of the trailer’s 1,700 gallon load back into the truck’s tank.

According to the Colorado State Patrol, the driver made an abrupt U-turn on the highway at Watson Divide Road, causing the tank to overturn. The driver was cited for careless driving.

A Times photographer at the scene said the chemical, gushing from a seam in the tanker, ran off the side of Highway 82 into the shoulder, where there is a pasture about 50 yards wide. The chemical soaked into the pasture dirt before it reached the bank of the Roaring Fork River, about 100 feet below.

Lee Cassin, director of environmental health for the city of Aspen, said she’s seen magnesium chloride kill a row of trees when it was put on a road and immediately washed by a rainstorm into a surrounding area.

“It kills vegetation it lands on, and I’ve seen it kill vegetation when it’s used for dust control,” she said. “It doesn’t take very much.”

As for the chemical that may have run into the Roaring Fork, Cassin said it would depend on how much of the chemical, if any, hit the water. Given that the level of the river is high because of spring runoff, she said the chemical would be quickly diluted.

Nancy MacKenzie from the Pitkin County Environmental Health Department said she would recommend that the area be diluted with water as part of the cleanup process. The State Patrol’s representative from the hazardous materials department who handled the incident did not return calls for comment about how the cleanup was handled.

Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is nhavlen@aspentimes.com

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