Hydrogen peroxide spill closes highway

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 19, 2004

NATCHEZ &045; A portion of U.S. 61 North was closed nearly all day

Tuesday after 3,000 gallons of hydrogen peroxide spilled onto the road.

At about 7 a.m. a Quality Carriers 18-wheeler lost control and flipped, spilling its contents, officials said.

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At the time of the spill the hydrogen peroxide was at 50 percent concentration. Officials worked throughout the day to reduce the percentage to 3 percent, a safe level.

Three families in the area were evacuated from their homes due to safety concerns, and the Department of Environmental Quality was called in to take samples from nearby Whitten and Turpin Creeks.

Ernie Shirley, environmental scientist with DEQ, said it would take some time to determine if any species in the creeks had been harmed in the spill.

&uot;The product came out in one gush,&uot; Shirley said. &uot;We will have to follow-up with sampling to make sure the creeks are OK.&uot;

When sold over the counter hydrogen peroxide is at a 2 percent concentration. The substance gives off hydrogen gas and could have produced dangerous vapors if the sun had been out.

&uot;The rain in this case is actually a good thing,&uot; Shirley said.

To dilute the substance it was washed in water.

Between 50 and 75 people worked to clean the area. Officials from the Mississippi Highway Patrol, Public Service Commission, Mississippi Department of Transportation and the DEQ responded to the scene along with workers from the Adams County Sheriff’s Office, the department of Civil Defense and firemen from Natchez, Foster Mound and Liberty Road Departments.

Representatives from the local Red Cross were also on the scene to provide coffee and meals to the workers throughout the day.

Civil Defense Director George Souderes said the spill was handled as a hazardous material call. The cost of cleanup will be covered by the trucking company and the DEQ.

The truck was traveling from the Memphis area to St. Francisville, La. The driver, Michael Hunter, was not injured.