UPDATE: Truck carrying flammable material overturns in Marion Co - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

UPDATE: Marion Co hazardous spill cleanup could last until Monday

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MARION COUNTY, TN (WRCB) - UPDATE:  As drivers creep by, orange barrels heard cars into one lane along Interstate 24 East.

It's a race against the clock for nearly 50 workers trying to clean the paint resin that spilled into a creek after a tanker truck lost control and slid down an embankment Thursday morning around mile marker 162.

The driver of the 18-wheeler is in stable condition. Channel 3 has learned he works for Miller Transporters and picked up the load of paint resin in Missouri and was headed to Georgia when he crashed.

The process Marion County EMA Director Steve Lamb says involves having to build a conversionary dam to lower the water level first.

“[We have to] partially drain the creek so we can work and get in there and finish the rest of the work,” he said.

Lamb points out the white, cloudy material stuck to rocks and branches in the creek is what his team is looking for. He says the liquid material turned solid from the cold temperatures.

“The material has gotten colder from the water temperature and it's a lot easier to handle as well,” he added.

This area along I-24 also makes the clean-up job tricky and is why Lamb and his team will be here through the weekend.

“It's too hazardous to work out here on the freeway at night, especially at this location, so we only have the daytime hours to work,” he said.

It's unclear how much of the material leaked into the creek, but Lamb says the material isn't dangerous to the water or wildlife.

Workers will be back out Saturday and Sunday from 8:30 am until 4:30 pm. The eastbound lane will be down to one lane at that time. 

The Tennessee Department of Transportation tells Channel 3, the environmental contractor will resume cleanup operations on Saturday, January 17 and Sunday, January 18 between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. CST. 

 I-24 East at mile marker 162 will once again be reduced to one lane during the cleanup. 

Due to Thursday's truck crash and subsequent chemical spill in Marion County on I-24 East at mile marker 162, an emergency environmental cleanup is underway.  

I-24 East is currently reduced to one lane near MM 162 to facilitate cleanup operations.  I-24 East will be restored to two lanes at 4:00 p.m. CST Friday afternoon.  

The environmental contractor will resume cleanup operations on Saturday, January 17 and Sunday, January 18 between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. CST.

I-24 will be down to one lane Saturday and Sunday during the cleanup.  



PREVIOUS STORY: Officials estimate the cleanup in Marion County on I-24EB near MM161 could take another 3-4 days.

Crews spent Friday morning removing the overturned truck's cab out of the creek where it crashed Thursday morning.

Environmental crews will then move in to clean the paint resin and diesel fuel that leaked into the creek.

But Steve Lamb with Marion County EMA says the water has tested good and the fish don't appear to be affected.

The spill only made it about an eighth of a mile down the creek before it solidified in the cold temperatures. The creek flows into the Tennessee River.

Lamb says cleanup crews can only work during the daylight and advises drivers to be aware of more left lane closures this weekend at the site of the crash.


UPDATE:  Business along the detour happy to serve the extra traffic
A tractor trailer crash on Interstate 24 created a big mess and resulted in a haz-mat clean up that is not yet complete. The truck veered off the highway, careened down an embankment, overturned, and came to rest in a creek.

The detour takes drivers along Highway 41 and a new bridge, which opened in November, as it turns out, just in time. For some businesses near by, we found out this incident and the resulting interstate traffic nightmare wasn't all bad news.

"That's most traffic I've seen on this highway since the bridge opened up," said Chris McNabb. From The Anchor Inn, where he works, it has been a different kind of Thursday. Highway 41 over Nickajack Lake runs out front and is the primary way to get around the mess on the interstate. "They had a very busy breakfast," he added. "The workers came over and got some biscuits and gravy and things like that."

How bad is it on I-24? "There was some folks came in here earlier," McNabb remembered, "they started noticing the traffic slowing down back at Murfreesboro."

Folks like Connie Richardson. "We expected to just jump in the car and be in Atlanta and 3 1/2 hours and we have been sitting in park for an hour," she said. "Just now exiting off the entrance ramp when we figured we weren't going to be going anywhere."

Richardson, traveling from Nashville to Atlanta for a magazine launch party, is left to find an alternate route. "I just called my husband to say that if we disappeared where we were," she added, "and we're hoping that we will make our way to Atlanta before this party's over."

It was a round-trip to Alabama and back for Alecia Barton. We asked her if this was all just a big headache. "When you get tired and ready to go home, you don't want to get stuck in a lot of traffic," she answered. So, yes!"

The kicker for her is, they passed this mess on the other side, this morning. "We thought the traffic really would've been gone by now," said Barton, "and it's still there."

It will be there a few more days. Crews halted clean-up when darkness set in. They will return Friday morning after drive time, around 9:00. Traffic will be squeezed into one lane along the shoulder. Prepare for delays as the process is expected to take 3 to 4 days.

"Miss Linda really appreciates people coming by and getting a gas or taking a break or getting tired of sitting on the freeway over there," Chris McNabb said. Miss Linda runs The Anchor Inn where, McNabb added, they will be ready, no matter how long clean-up takes. "Within the next 24 hours, they might be coming back hungry again. You know? We look forward to serving them."

Download the Channel-3 traffic app for a heads-up on any delays along your route. Just search WRCB in the app store.


The cleanup of this chemical spill is definitely taking longer than emergency crews first expected.

At about 3 p.m. Channel 3 was told plain and simple, Plan A didn't work. Crews were working off a three step process, first to remove what's left of the paint resin from the tractor trailer.

Then to get the truck out of the water and then to go back in and work on the water contamination, but the cold weather we've been experiencing has kept that from happening.

"It's cooled so much due to the temperature outside that you see today that the material has solidified in the tank and so we can't do that, and so now we're going to have to go to an alternate method," said Steve Lamb, Marion County EMA Director.

After a few more team meetings throughout the day, a Plan B was put in place. More than 12 hours since the crash, and the focus hasn't changed. They need to get this tractor trailer out of the creek.

"The plan is to try and upright the tanker where it's sitting in the creek to prevent anything from possibly spilling out of it and pulling it over to the edge of this bank and picking it up with a wrecker," said Lamb.

Even though the cold weather has been slowing down the clean up, in other ways it's actually been helping the process, the liquid hazardous chemical is now solid.

"It won't move based on the water flow it's sitting where it is and so with the weather forecast with no rain in the forecast until the first of the week it's going to stay where it is and so it gives us some time to get it cleaned up," said Lamb.  

After the truck is removed from the water, hazmat crews will focus on the contamination. The trucking company is responsible for getting the mess cleaned up, as long as it will take.

"These events you never know how things are going to work out in an incident like this, so yea it's affected our timeline but we're going to continue to work until we have it resolved," said Lamb.

Also Tennessee Highway Patrol tells Channel 3, the driver of the truck is now in surgery to fix some broken bones from the crash and is expected to stay in stable condition.


PREVIOUS STORY: "It's cooled so much due to the temperature outside that you see today that the material has solidified in the tank and so we can't do that, and so now we're going to have to go to an alternate method," said Steve Lamb, Marion County EMA Director.
Plan A was to pump out the remaining paint resin to avoid another spill, but the cold weather isn't cooperating.  

The liquid hazardous chemical turned to sludge and it's expected to stay like that for the rest of the cleanup.

"These events you never know how things are going to work out in an incident like this, so yea it's affected our timeline. 

But we're going to continue to work until we have it resolved," said Lamb.

Plan B is to now get the truck out of the creek with the chemical still inside, turning it upright and then lifting it up with a wrecker crew.

"But we have to upright it because the gash in the tank is on the top of the truck so we want it in the highest position when we start moving the tanker," said Lamb.

Clean up crews still aren't sure how much of the truckload spilled, but it is the trucking company's responsibility to get it all taken care of.

And task that is now expected to take at least another 24 hours to complete.

"We probably will not be working after dark on this scene and again due to the hazards of working in those kinds of conditions," said Lamb.

Update on traffic routes, they will be opening both lanes after the crews call it a day. 

But once they return to start the clean up Friday morning, traffic will again be down to one lane, using the shoulder of the road.


PREVIOUS STORY: A major Hazmat cleanup is underway on Interstate 24 east not far from the Haletown exit in Marion County.

A tractor trailer carrying a hazardous chemical veered off the interstate and went down an embankment Thursday morning. It came to a rest overturned in a creek between east and west lanes of traffic.

The 52-year-old driver had to be extricated from the truck and pulled to safety out of the embankment. Crews had to use ropes to pull themselves up and down the embankment to reach the crash site.

Lifeforce was called to the scene but couldn't land due to the fog. The driver was taken by ambulance to a local hospital just after 7:15 a.m. He is listed in stable condition. He was driving for Jackson, Miss.-based Miller Transporters Inc., according to troopers. The company operates 425 tractors and 1,000 trailers, according to its website.

The first priority in the cleanup is removing the truck and trailer from the creek. The hazmat teams will then move in and begin the cleanup.

The trucking company has hired Marion Environment and SWS to clean up the mess.

Tennessee Highway Patrol and Marion County Sheriff's deputies are on scene investigating the crash.

"We do have a witness who was following the truck, advising the truck was traveling at 60-65 miles per hour and wasn't leaving the lane of traffic," said THP Sgt. David Roark. "He came in the curve and went straight so we don't know if it's a driver error, truck error or at this time what that situation is."

A hazardous materials team is also on the scene because the truck was carrying highly flammable resin. It's unclear how much has leaked into the creek. That creek feeds into the Tennessee River.

Expect traffic delays. The road could be closed up to 24 hours as crews work to clean up the scene. Eastbound traffic is being diverted. The THP is diverting traffic off the exit ramp near mile marker 161. Drivers can use Start Routes 134 and 141 to get back on the interstate.  Westbound traffic is not obstructed.

Stay with Channel 3 for the latest on this story. Follow @danokennedy on Twitter for updates.
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