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Waste Site Cleanup & Reuse in New England

GAC Sodium Hydroxide Release

The tanker, carrying 5,000 gallons of sodium hydroxide, rolled off the road onto its side, stopping within 50 feet of a stream.

A tanker trailer truck operated by GAC Chemical of Searsport, Maine, collided with a passenger vehicle on Route 137 at the intersection of Webb Road in Knox, Maine. The tanker, carrying 5,000 gallons of sodium hydroxide, rolled off the road onto its side, stopping within 50 feet of a stream. While the tank remained intact, about 20 gallons of sodium hydroxide were released. The state departments of Environmental Protection and Transportation, state and local police, and several mutual aid fire stations responded to the release.

Before EPA arrived, GAC Chemical sent a second tanker to offload the vehicle’s contents. After DEP determined that all valves and fittings were either unreachable or unusable, a 12-inch square of the tanker wall was cut away to provide access for a vacuum hose, and most of the tanker contents were transferred to the second vehicle. 

Once the sodium hydroxide was transferred from the overturned tanker to the second tanker, the wrecker crew placed the vehicle upright. It then moved its equipment to prepare to pull the tanker up onto the road; however, when the tanker was on the road, more sodium hydroxide was released from the tank wall opening and several hundred gallons of liquid spilled onto the soil. Caustic liquid quickly was captured in berms and trenches before it could impact the stream, and the remainder was pumped from the tank bottom to the holding tanker. Citric acid, supplied by GAC, was applied to the trailer and areas of spilled caustic.

The cab was taken away by a wrecker, then the trailer was rinsed and checked before it was taken from the scene. DEP and GAC Chemical returned to excavate and dispose of contaminated soils. DEP monitored the area after.

Location: Knox, ME
Start date: 06/29/2009
End date: 06/29/2009
Contact: Claudia Deane (deane.claudia@epa.gov)

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