Truck’s leaking cargo spurs Hazmat response on Routes 103, 11

UPDATE: 9:30 p.m. Tuesday

The scene tonight as 30 first responders work through the night. Photos by Shawn Cunningham

About 30 firefighters, state Hazmat team members, police and ambulance personnel remain on the scene of a hazardous materials incident tonight to help a crew from Clean Harbors Environmental Services cope with a cleanup of one of its trucks that was leaking liquid sodium nitrate.

“The people here now will be here all night,” said Chester Fire Chief Matt Wilson at a little after 9 p.m. According to Wilson, shortly after the state’s Hazmat team members entered the truck, they found an acid leaking in the front of the trailer that was eating through the floor. The truck’s manifest listed hydrochloric and nitric acids on board.

Wilson said they were waiting for air sample collection tubes that would help them decide the best and safest way to deal with the hazard. “If it’s safe to go in, the owner (Clean Harbors Environmental Services) can start the cleanup,” said Wilson.

The newly formed CFD Auxiliary at its first emergency scene providing food and drink for the crews. From left, Robin Trask, Chris Edwards, Carolyn Niesuchouski and Laurie Vertefeuille

He noted that with acidity readings at the bottom of the litmus scale (meaning most acidic) workers would also need to be decontaminated following exposure. The Springfield Fire Department provided the decontamination unit.

Looking forward, Wilson estimated that they would not wrap up transferring the load to another truck and remediating the area until 6 a.m. Wednesday. Until then, he said that the newly formed Chester Fire Department Auxiliary was keeping the crews fed and watered.



By Shawn Cunningham and Cynthia Prairie
© 2017 Telegraph Publishing LLC

An environmental cleanup company truck was transporting chemicals from a GE factory in Rutland to Bristol, Conn., around 1:30 p.m. Tuesday when the driver realized that a container of sodium nitrate  was flowing out the back of his truck and onto Route 103 South past the Chester-Andover Family Center.

The incident slowed — and then completely stopped — afternoon traffic as the Chester Fire Department, along with aid from other departments, ambulance services and Vermont Hazmat descended on the scene. Around 4 p.m., officials shut down the road completely between Pleasant Street at Route 11 in Chester along Route 103 south to Peck Road.

A VTrans dump truck drops sand in the ditch near the truck to contain any runoff. All photos by Shawn Cunningham unless otherwise noted.

Driver Jeff Carpenter, of Fultonville, N.Y., a 20-year employee of Clean Harbors Environmental Services, said he had noticed the problem when he pulled over to conduct a routine truck check, which is done every 60 minutes. He said he immediately called 911.

According to Chester Fire Chief Matt Wilson, the truck was carrying seven 300-gallon vats of liquid sodium nitrate, among other chemicals.

Sodium nitrate can be either a liquid or a power and is used as a preservative of meats — especially bacon — and in the production of fertilizers, glass and pottery enamels and some explosives such as fireworks and solid rocket propellant. Upon contact with hot air, like the weather the area has been experiencing, the chemical evaporates.

Cpl. Mark Heberts of the Department of Motor Vehicles said the truck also was carrying chromium, hydrochloric acid and nitric acid. He added that New York State inspected both the tractor trailer and the driver just last week and all went well. Heberts also said that the state of Vermont has not had a problem with Clean Harbors before.

A rust colored stain on Route 11 in Londonderry may be part of the spill. Photo by Tanner Bischofberger

The spill may have begun as far away as Route 11 in Londonderry. Abrum Crossman, a carpenter in Londonderry, posted in an email to The Telegraph, “Something reddish orange all over rte 11 in Londonderry from magic mt to top of Huntley mt. Was not there at noon but is there now, entire lane headed east towards Chester.”

Tanner Bischofberger, a resident of Lowell Lake Road and a Green Mountain Union High School student, posted on Facebook, I noticed the stuff on the road when I was coming home from school around 3:30 … it’s really bad going up Huntley mountain just past Lowell lake road.” He added, “From what I see the leak starts at thompsonburg road, and ends at the top of Huntley mountain.”

Close up of the stained road surface on Route 11. Photo by Tanner Bischofberger

While the truck driver usually would have traveled from Rutland down Route 103 to I-91, a bridge closed for repairs in Ludlow meant that Carpenter detoured to Route 100 through Weston, and took a left onto Route 11 in Londonderry before heading to Chester.

As for the what caused the spill, Carpenter told The Telegraph Tuesday afternoon, “The guys at GE are really good and wouldn’t let a drop go. And I wouldn’t accept a container that leaked.” He added that this is the first such situation he has had and he wants it to be the last.

Once the cargo reached Bristol, it was to be shipped to Clean Harbors’ own wastewater treatment facility in Cleveland, said David Proud, vice president of communications for Clean Harbors.

He added that Clean Harbors crews had been sent to Chester to clean up and remediate the site and remove anything that should not be there. After that, he added, the company will conduct a thorough investigation into the accident.

State Hazmat team member dons a class A suit for a look inside the leaking truck.

Soon after the Chester Fire Department arrived on the scene, it called in Proctorsville, Springfield and Grafton fire departments as well as  Ascutney’s Hazmat trailer, VTrans and DMV Enforcement. The Chester and Ludlow ambulances were standing by at the scene.  But since the truck couldn’t be opened without a team in full Hazmat gear, those assembled had to wait until a Vermont state Hazmat truck arrive. The problem was that Vermont Hazmat was tending to an evacuation situation in Colchester that occurred after an excavator hit a propane tank.

According to Chief Matt Wilson, emergency responders were concerned about what might come of a mix of the other chemicals in the truck with the sodium nitrate that was leaking.  The fire departments placed streamers on the antenna of a truck to monitor the wind direction.

Wilson called for an EMT from Ludlow to fill out the Chester Ambulance crew that was on the scene in case they had to transport a person in an emergency.

At around 3:45 p.m., traffic was stopped to dump sand in the ditch as a berm to contain leakage that might ocur once the back of the truck was opened.

Once state Hazmat arrived and set up, two workers in lower level containment suits tested the area around the truck then set to suit up in higher level suits. According to Assistant Fire Chief Ben Whalen, “Hazmat situations are done in small steps. You go in, see what’s up and regroup.”

A rust colored plume rises from the truck as Hazmat team members open the door. Firefighters immediately move everyone farther back from the truck.

By 6 p.m. the workers were back at the truck in “class A suits” which give the wearer maximum protection. When those workers opened the rear door of the truck, a plume of rust colored dust rose from the truck and firefighters moved everyone away.

According to Whalen, once the truck was secured by the Hazmat team, it was to be turned over to the trucking company to clean up and remediate. Whalen expected that to take at least five hours while others on the scene predicted it would take longer.

Whalen said that Chester would send a truck out as far as the Windham line to hose down areas where the truck might have leaked and Vermont Emergency Management would be sending out fire departments out along the route all the way back to Clarendon.

The Chester Telegraph will continue covering this story and update it as it unfolds.

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  1. Allen Seiple says:

    The roads are in terrible condition. Just think, we raised the gasoline tax 6 cents a gallon 2 years ago to help remedy this situation. Where is the money???

  2. Thomas Knockenhauer says:

    Why are these companies even taking the scenic route to their destination? Driving through Rutland via Chester is ridiculous. They should have taken Route 4 to I-89 to I-91 to where ever they are going.

    Instead, they speed and drive reckless through our beautiful town, destroying the roads and the people who live there, all to save 2.5 miles, according to the GPS.

    Someone needs to address this before a truck slams into a citizen’s house and destroys life and property. Two years ago, a gas truck crashed due to excessive in Chester. Oh there go nine houses on trailers that don’t even fit the road driving past my house at 45 miles per hour. Saved a mile or two I guess.

  3. Cynthia Prairie says:

    Yes, that is what we reported.

  4. roberta says:

    Bacon? OMG? We eat this? Sodium nitrate can be either a liquid or a power and is used as a preservative of meats — especially bacon — and in the production of fertilizers, glass and pottery enamels and some explosives such as fireworks and solid rocket propellant

  5. Kathy Pellett says:

    You can always count on The Chester Telegraph to get a story out quickly, accurately and with great detail. It’s nice to know what’s happening here and you can always find out in The Telegraph. I drove by this site around 2 p.m., apparently very early in the whole process, wondering what was happening. Nice to find out today. Thanks Cynthia and Shawn, as always, great reporting.

  6. Mark Mueller says:

    You are right.. it meant 155.

  7. Cynthia Prairie says:

    103 isn’t in Weston. Might you be thinking of Route 100?

  8. Cynthia Prairie says:

    Yes it is. Firefighters washed down the road last night.

  9. Ann DiBernardo says:

    Is the road open from Chester to Londonderry?

  10. Mark Mueller says:

    Good thing it wasn’t on Rte 103 between Weston and Mt. Holly.

  11. Jack Smith says:

    The condition of Rt. 11 between Londonderry and Chester was terrible 10 days ago. The State of Vermont should be ashamed that they have let that road lapse into such horrible condition!

  12. Bruce Parks says:

    The condition of Rt. 11 for the first couple of miles
    east of Londonderry is TERRIBLE! That would
    coincide with the presumed beginning of
    the leaking sodium nitrate.

  13. Toby Fitch says:

    Does anyone wonder if the rough condition of Vermont State highways might be a contributing factor? Hmmmmm… Is this just the beginning?

  14. Melody Reed says:

    Yikes. Well done. We were wondering what had happened.