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Hazardous materials studied by committee

July 02, 1998

By CLYDE FORD

Staff Writer, Charles Town

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - An estimated 36,000 pounds of hazardous materials are carried per hour by tractor-trailers on Interstate 81 through Berkeley County, according to a study presented to the Berkeley County Commission on Thursday.

"It only takes one wreck and we could have a major incident," said Berkeley County Emergency Services Director Stephen Allen.

Allen presented a report to the commission prepared by the Local Emergency Planning Committee on the transportation of hazardous materials.

With the help of the West Virginia Division of Highways, volunteer firefighters with the hazardous materials response team surveyed the number of tractor-trailers traveling the highways during a four-day span between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., Allen said.

There were 262 trucks carrying 3,677,767 pounds of hazardous materials on board during the survey period, Allen said. Flammable liquids were carried in 90 of the trucks, he said.

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Berkeley County's Hazardous Incident Response Team responds to about 11 calls a year, usually involving minor spills such as diesel leaking from the fuel tanks of a wrecked tractor-trailer, Allen said.

Allen said the study was conducted to help the firefighters better prepare for an accident by finding out what materials they are likely to face and obtaining the equipment to protect them.

Kim Sencindiver, chairwoman of the Local Emergency Planning Committee, said one of the risks posed by a hazardous materials spill on I-81 is that the highway runs above the Potomac River and numerous streams and creeks. The water can spread the materials over a wide area after a spill, she said.

"That makes it even more important to have a quick response to these situations," Sencindiver said.

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