TERRE HAUTE —
A chemical spill from a tanker truck caused traffic snarls on the city’s southside Tuesday during morning commute time.
At about 6:45 a.m., Terre Haute firefighters were called to Voorhees Street between Third and Eighth streets to clean up a spill of sodium hydroxide, also known as caustic soda.
Terre Haute police also responded to the scene and set up barricades at all north-south streets and alleys connecting onto Voorhees along the spill route while the cleanup lasted. Some motorists tried to go around barricades during the morning rush time, and that resulted in at least one close-call as a city police officer was almost struck by a vehicle.
“That’s always the case,” Fire Chief Jeff Fisher said of bad traffic behavior at such incidents. “You put up barricades, and people think they are there to drive around.”
The tanker truck originated from a business near 14th Street and Lockport Road. City police report that the driver failed to check the truck thoroughly to make sure all valves were properly closed. The truck traveled along Voorhees to a gas station at Third Street where the truck driver stopped to reportedly get something to drink. At that time, the driver realized that the load was leaking, and he reported it.
A hazardous materials team from the fire department confirmed that the chemical was not harmful to people or the environment if it was diluted. So the fire department sprayed down the area of the spill, washing away the chemical, Fisher said.
Firefighters cleared the scene by 9 a.m.
Because of the traffic barricades, the Vigo County School Corp. had to reroute school buses and students in that area “all morning,” said Superintendent Dan Tanoos.
The district learned about the spill just before 7 a.m. “Our team went out and helped reroute kids and buses,” Tanoos said.
The rerouting affected students who attend Farrington Grove and Fuqua elementary schools, Sarah Scott Middle School and a few from Terre Haute South Vigo High School, he said.