Nov. 01–The tractor-trailer that caught fire Monday — paralyzing Interstate 495 for hours — had a “cornucopia” of hazardous materials onboard, including sulfuric acid, cleaning supplies and pesticides, according to officials, who are now probing how the volatile materials were secured before the truck burst into flames.
State environmental officials also returned to the scene in Andover yesterday to look for any “possible environmental impacts” after the fire burned through the truck’s trailer, completely shutting the highway for seven hours during the evening commute.
“It was a cornucopia of different types of hazardous materials,” said Andover fire chief Michael Mansfield, adding that the 50-gallon drums included paint, thinners, and pesticides. A state police spokesman said sulfuric acid and other cleaning supplies were also on the truck.
“Anything from any hazard group you can imagine was onboard, with the exception of radioactive materials,” Mansfield said. “There obviously was some sort of reaction to create the heat within the trailer itself.”
State police are still investigating what specifically started the fire, and how the chemicals “were stored and secured,” spokesman David Procopio said. No one was injured.
The driver was not cited, and Procopio said state police performed a “visual inspection” of the truck and the driver’s records, finding no immediate “violations of federal motor carrier law.”
State officials did not immediately release a copy of the truck’s manifest yesterday.
The truck is owned by the New Jersey company ACV Enviro, which is listed in federal records under its previous name, Clean Venture Inc. Messages left at the company were not returned yesterday.
Mansfield said the truck had originated from the “Worcester area” before making several stops to pick up chemicals en route to New Hampshire.
“Unfortunately, sometimes when these things get packaged, they might not be as packaged or separated as well as they could be,” he said.
The company has a “satisfactory” safety rating — the highest awarded — and has no record of any “critical” hazardous materials violations from the past two years, according to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration records available online.
But the company did have 13 other hazardous material “compliance” violations over the same time frame, including an August incident in which it was cited for a “release of hazardous materials from (a) package.”
The company hired a consultant to join two state Department of Environmental Protection officials at the site yesterday, said Ed Coletta, a DEP spokesman. Officials had monitored the air quality near the fire, but said it never came close to levels requiring an evacuation.
“Should any environmental impacts be found, they would have to be addressed by the state-licensed consultant and any remediation would be funded by the trucking company,” DEP officials said in a statement.
Frits Wybenga, a former deputy associate administrator for Hazardous Materials Safety at the U.S. Department of Transportation, said such chemical fires could create concerns of “acidic vapors” floating downwind.
But he said sulfuric acid typically “drops out very quickly” from the air and close to the accident scene in similar situations.
“I doubt there was any ongoing problem,” said Wybenga, now a transportation consultant.
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