Hazmat spill in Summit County closes I-70 for more than 6 hours
Ryan Summerlin May 30, 2012
SILVERTHORNE, Colorado – Eight bags of hydrated lime powder that toppled off the back of a semi-truck Wednesday morning caused eastbound I-70 to close for clean-up for six-and-a-half hours.
Eastbound lanes were closed from Vail to Silverthorne until 5:30 p.m. Wednesday after highway traffic began to gridlock in Frisco.
The highway was coated in lime when a flatbed truck dropped several bags of the powder at mile marker 204 on the hill between Frisco and Silverthorne. Lime is a corrosive chemical that can cause burns to the skin and eyes as well as lungs and respiratory passages if inhaled.
Clean-up efforts were delayed as local emergency responders waited for a Colorado State Patrol hazmat team to arrive from another incident in Weld County.
It was still unclear Wednesday afternoon whether the spill could impact the Blue River, emergency officials said.
“We’re about a half mile away from the Blue River,” Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue spokesman Steve Lipsher said Wednesday. “The Colorado State Patrol is sending a hazmat team up to help us evaluate the risk and figure out the likelihood of this reaching the river in any concentration great enough to endanger the … fishery.”
The spill was not considered to be a public health risk, according to Lipsher.
Lake Dillon, Copper Mountain Fire Department and Red, White and Blue Fire teams responded to the scene first and began sweeping up as much of the chemical as possible in full hazmat gear.
The spill was not caused by any kind of accident, and no serious injuries were reported, officials said.
“There’s no crash,” State Patrol spokesman Joshua Lewis said Wednesday. “We’re not investigating anything like that.”
The driver pulled off at the Silverthorne exit when he noticed the spill, began to attempt to clean it up and suffered minor injuries from exposure to the chemical. He refused medical treatment, according to Lipsher.
A 65-year-old man who was a bystander to the spill was treated for lime exposure at Summit Medical Center and was released, a hospital spokesperson said.