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Hazardous leak closes northbound I-81 for 2 hours

August 25, 2009|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- The northbound lanes of Interstate 81 near City Hospital in Martinsburg were shut down for about two hours Tuesday while emergency officials investigated a leak from a tractor-trailer that was hauling three types of hazardous corrosive materials, officials said.

Less than five gallons of floor wax, which was not hazardous, leaked, according to Berkeley County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management director Stephen S. Allen.

The leak was discovered about 5 p.m. by the truck driver after he pulled off the side of I-81 near Exit 14 because of a mechanical malfunction, Allen said.

The trailer had been packed at the Ecolab plant off Baker Road near Martinsburg, but Allen could not recall the shipping destination.

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Because the trailer diplayed signs indicating it was carrying corrosive material, Allen said emergency officials had to take precautions and divert traffic from the highway.

Using litmus paper, Allen said members of the county's Hazmat unit were able to determine the wax was not hazardous or corrosive.

The detour caused interstate traffic to back up to the Tablers Station Road exit south of Martinsburg. Vehicles were directed to U.S. 11 north, then through downtown Martinsburg via Winchester Avenue, West King and North Queen streets, and to Edwin Miller Boulevard north of the city and back to I-81.

Most of traffic was returned to I-81 by 8 p.m., Berkeley County Sheriff Kenneth M. Lemaster Jr. said.

Several deputies and deputy reserve units, along with Martinsburg Police Department officers detoured traffic, Allen said. Volunteer firefighters from Baker Heights and Bedington, along with officials from the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection and state Division of Highways also responded, Allen said.

"It was a really good nonincident incident," Allen said of the response by police and emergency officials.

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