Roads reopen following chemical leak

July 16, 2008 7:45:06 PM PDT
Roads reopened and residents were allowed home Wednesday afternoon after a chemical leak near Kenly.

Around 3:30 a.m. Wednesday, authorities were called to an incident where a was truck leaking silicon tetrafluoride at the TA Truck Stop, at 923 Johnston Parkway. This is at Exit-106 off of Interstate-95.

According to authorities, the driver of the truck was inspecting his two trailers when the leak was discovered.

Businesses between US-301 and I-95 on Truck Stop Road were evacuated. Several homes in the area were evacuated and a shelter was set up at North Johnston Middle School in Micro. The driver driving the truck is in stable condition at the hospital.

Rickie Liles and his 8-year-old daughter Sara were among the residents in the half dozen homes that were evacuated.

While emergency officials tried to figure out how to safely off-load some of the hazardous gas from the truck to another container, the Liles' played Uno and checkers. "We just chalk it up to another adventure I guess, just go with the flow," Rickie Liles said, adding he wasn't panicked when a firefighter knocked on his door about 7 a.m. Wednesday. Liles joked he thought at first it was the cable guy coming really early.

Back at the scene, some businesses that had closed early Wednesday reopened, even as an adjacent parking lot remained full of EMS and hazardous materials vehicles. A Wendy's restaurant manager sat at a table staring out the window as would-be customers were turned around as they tried to exit off I-95 toward the fast-food restaurant and other stores.

Johnston County officials said before noon that the gas had stopped leaking; the silicon tetrafluoride was trapped in a valve connected to a tank on the truck in question. The challenge facing the workers was to off-load that trapped gas safely into another container without allowing more to escape.

"The concern is that because the product has very high health hazards, respiratory problems and that kind of thing, we've got to get that leak stopped, get it capped off," said Johnston County Public Information Officer Pat Lacarter. "At that point it'll be a matter of just making sure the truck is safe."

The truck was headed from Aurora, North Carolina to Texas, carrying about 12,500 pounds of the gas, which is a byproduct of the production of phosphate fertilizers. Two people were in the truck at the time the leak was detected. The driver was taken to a local hospital, where he was in stable condition at last report. The other driver did not need to be transported.

Silicon Tetrafluoride is a by-product of the production of phosphate fertilizers. The chemical is toxic, and can be fatal if inhaled. Vapors are extremely irritating and corrosive.

Contact with gas or liquefied gas may cause burns, severe injury and/or frostbite. Fire will produce irritating, corrosive and/or toxic gases. Runoff from fire control may cause pollution.


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