January 23, 2024 |

Photo – rolled tanker truck – by Randy Cragoe Carbon County Fire Department

A hazardous chemical spill shut down Interstate 80 for several hours.

Yesterday morning, a single-axle tanker truck carrying liquid anhydrous ammonia crashed on I80 outside Elk Mountain. The entire highway, from Rawlins to Laramie, was shut down for several hours while county fire crews tried to stop the chemical from spilling out of the damaged tanker.

Bigfoot99 spoke to Carbon County Fire Warden John Rutherford yesterday afternoon. Fire Warden Rutherford was on the scene of the crash. He said a small tanker truck veered off the road. Rutherford said the collision caused the truck’s tank to rupture, spilling the anhydrous ammonia. Warden Rutherford said the tank was too heavily damaged to completely stop the flow of the chemical.

Rutherford said he did not know the cause of the crash.

Fire Warden Rutherford said yesterday morning responders managed to reduce the flow of the anhydrous ammonia exiting the tank.

Rutherford said he was waiting for another tanker truck to arrive from Colorado to take the remaining liquid away. Whatever is left in the damaged tank will be vented into the atmosphere, said the fire warden.

Rutherford said anhydrous ammonia is mostly used in the agriculture industry as fertilizer. The fire warden said the liquid chemical must be stored at very low temperature. Because of that, Rutherford said direct skin contact will result in cold burns. However, Rutherford said the chemical poses the greatest threat when inhaled.

Fire Warden Rutherford said anhydrous ammonia is flammable, but the chemical’s flash point is high enough that it was never in danger of catching fire yesterday. Rutherford said hazmat crews attempted several times to stop the chemical spill. The fire warden said the best they could do was reduce the amount of anhydrous ammonia leaking from the tank.

Rutherford said the super-cooled chemical instantly turns into a gas when exposed to the atmosphere. The fire warden said the chemical will not pose a future danger because it will be carried off by the wind.

After slowing the flow from the ruptured tank, Fire Warden Rutherford determined that it was safe to reopen Interstate 80. Rutherford said crews were continuing to monitor the amount of anhydrous ammonia in the air to ensure it falls within acceptable limits. If things change, Rutherford said the road will be closed again.

As of yesterday afternoon, Fire Warden Rutherford said he was waiting for the replacement tanker from Colorado to arrive. Once the truck gets on scene and the chemicals are removed from the damaged tank, Rutherford said his job will be over. The fire warden said he is only responsible for the safety of his crew and the public.

Rutherford reported that the tanker driver was injured in the crash. The extent of the driver’s injuries is unknown at this time.

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