ANGOLA — A spill of some 5,000-6,000 gallons of nitric acid ended up closing both lanes of Interstate 69 and Old U.S. 27 for hours early Tuesday at the Pilot Travel Center in the 6900 block of Old U.S. 27.
Emergency personnel were on hand for nearly 6 1/2 hours working to make sure the site was secure while environmental crews did their work.
“It went from bad to uh-oh,” said Aaron Vanderpool, assistant fire chief at the Fremont Fire Department, the lead emergency services agency on the scene.
At least three tri-axle truck loads of agriculture lime were brought in to help neutralize the nitric acid. Crews from the environmental clean up company Indiana Spill Response, Anderson, worked into the evening to remove the materials brought in to contain the nitric acid. Vanderpool said the company had brought in 10 roll off containers in which to place the contaminated material.
Fremont Fire was the first on the scene where crews found a tanker truck out of Terre Haute that was leaking the nitric acid. A faulty valve was blamed for the leak. Vanderpool said a pair of locking pliers was used to try to keep the valve shut but the acid ate through them.
By the time of the full response, crews were on hand from Fremont, Angola Fire as well as the Steuben County Sheriff’s Department, Indiana State Police, Michigan State Police, Indiana Department of Transportation, Michigan Department of Transportation, Bill’s Professional Towing, Speedway Redimix, Carper Farm Supply, Indiana Department of Environmental Management and Steuben County Emergency Management.
“They did an awesome job, all the emergency service personnel,” said Randy Brown, Steuben County Emergency Management director.
Vanderpool said a specialized truck from Speedway was used to spread material to contain the spill.
Brown also said he worked with the National Weather Service to provide wind and atmospheric information so vapor plumage tracking could be conducted.
“National Weather Service did a great job providing plumage maps,” Brown said. “The National Weather Service played a huge role in this today.”
By determining where the plumes might travel, precautions could be taken, Brown said.
“This stuff is very corrosive and burns the skin,” Brown said. Breathing the vapor is very hazardous to one’s health.
The interstate was closed starting at about 10 a.m. from mile marker 354 in Indiana to mile marker 3 in Michigan. It reopened around 1:30 p.m.
Businesses in the immediate are were also closed. The Speedway station was the first to close, with yellow caution tape forming a perimeter at the gas station.