Hazardous materials common on highway

February 15, 1999|By DAVE McMILLION, Charles Town

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Local emergency officials estimate that one of every two tractor-trailer rigs traveling through Berkeley County on Interstate 81 is carrying hazardous materials.

About 33 percent of the trucks carrying hazardous materials are hauling flammable liquids such as gasoline, diesel fuel or jet fuel, according to a survey completed last June by the Berkeley County Office of Emergency Services.

Emergency Services Director Steve Allen said the survey did not contain any surprises.

The various types and amounts of hazardous materials being hauled on the interstate were what officials had expected, Allen said.

Allen said he believes the county is well-equipped to handle accidents involving the materials.

The survey was conducted after emergency officials spent four days identifying hazardous material shipments on 262 trucks.

The loads were identified at rest stops in the northbound and southbound lanes, said Allen.

Of the trucks carrying hazardous materials, 20 percent were hauling corrosives such as acid and 18 percent carried such gases as oxygen and argon, according to the survey.


Also, 9 percent were carrying flammable gases such as propane or hydrogen, 6 percent were carrying poisons or poisonous gases such as chlorine and 5 percent were carrying cleaners such as bleach, according to the survey.

The rest of the loads contained radioactive materials, flammable solids or organic peroxide.

A tractor-trailer that wrecked along I-81 Monday was carrying two 55-gallon drums of organic peroxide, but the material was in a trailer that did not overturn, officials said.

Organic peroxide, which is used in pharmaceutical products and fertilizers, can produce a poisonous vapor if spilled, Allen said.

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