Tanker spills close I-70
December 21, 2010
SILVERTHORNE, Colo. – Tuesday brought double trouble for Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue and the Summit County Haz-Mat Team after two chemical-bearing tankers crashed and sprung leaks in the course of one afternoon.
Crews had barely finished containing the estimated 1,000 gallons of magnesium chloride spilled when a tanker overturned under the Interstate 70 interchange in Silverthorne when a different tanker crashed while traveling down from the Eisenhower Tunnel on I-70, dumping approximately 50 pounds of liquid blasting agents on the highway.
According to initial reports, the second crash occurred when a heavy-tow vehicle rear-ended the tanker carrying the blasting gel – said to be about the consistency of apple sauce. The material is potentially explosive if exposed to spark or flame. A truck carrying such material would usually be routed over Loveland Pass, but the pass was closed Tuesday afternoon for avalanche control work.
“We’ve had our teams a third of a mile away, according to the manufacturer’s directions,” Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue spokesman Steve Lipsher said. “It’s my understanding that this stuff is fairly stable, unless it comes in contact with the wrong agent.”
Colorado Department of Transportation haz-mat crews were called in to assist with clean-up efforts.
The driver of the tow truck was injured in the crash and taken to Summit Medical Center for treatment.
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The crash shut down I-70 in both directions between Silverthorne and the tunnel. Eastbound lanes were expected to reopen Tuesday evening, but westbound I-70 was expected to remain closed for approximately eight hours – or until about 1 a.m. Wednesday. A tanker from Cheyenne was scheduled to off-load the substance from the wrecked truck.
The blasting agent spill came just two hours after a double tanker rolled its rear tank, spilling magnesium chloride dangerously close to the Blue River. The tank may have overturned as the truck was making the tight turn off the eastbound I-70 exit ramp onto Highway 9, said Lake Dillon Deputy Chief Jeff Berino.
The driver was not injured in the accident.
Lake Dillon crews constructed berms from sand and plastic around the spill to try to keep the chemical out of the Blue River, where it could be harmful to fish and wildlife, Berino said. Warmer temperatures Tuesday increased runoff from melting snow, making it more difficult for crews to contain the spill.
Magnesium chloride is a liquid salt used to de-ice roads.