Emergency officials say a truck carrying
for Wilson-based Water Guard Inc. was traveling on U.S. 64 west around 6:45 a.m. when its load shifted. A pallet broke and punctured a 55-gallon barrel of acid.
The truck driver said nearly half of the barrel's contents spilled into the truck and onto the roadway. The truck driver immediately pulled over on the U.S. 64 off ramp at N.C. 1003 and called 911.
Officials roped off the area and a hazmat crew from Williamston was dispatched.
"Our concern was that if the leak continued, it could spread into nearby areas where we would have to perform evacuations," said Scott Rogers, of Nash County Emergency Management.
The exit ramp had to shut down for a number of hours while local officials, the state Highway Patrol and an environmental crew worked to contain the scene.
"A spill inside a plant could very well easily be contained," Rogers said. "However, in a concentrated area like in the back of a truck where we're unable to determine levels of the leak -- things of that nature, we have to err on the side of safety."
Hazmat crews cleared the scene by early Friday afternoon without any injuries or evacuations. Officials said about 20 gallons of hydrochloric acid actually leaked from the barrel.
Hydrochloric acid or hydrogen chloride is a colorless liquid with a pungent odor. In homes, its primary use is cleaning bricks and swimming pools. Symptoms of exposure include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. In extreme cases, exposure can cause the circulatory system to collapse, which may lead to death.
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