U.S. 35 reopens after chemical spill

By Beth Sergent

December 17, 2013

HENDERSON — Structural failure of a tank hauling a chemical used in the fracking process is what caused a chemical spill and the closure of all four lanes of U.S. 35 late Monday afternoon.

Those four lanes have since reopened since the spill of hexamine - a chemical used in the fracking process. The southbound lanes of U.S. 35 began opening up Monday night, followed by the northbound lanes as cleanup progressed.

Tom Aluise, spokesperson with the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP), said the tank being hauled by the tractor trailer had a leak near the rear valve of the tanker. He added the spill was cleaned up by 10:30 p.m. Monday night and the owner of the tractor trailer, TBM Trucking of Monroe, N.C., hired a contractor to do that cleanup. The disabled tanker has also been hauled away.

Also playing a part in the clean up were local firefighters whom Aluise said created a roadside dam when some of the hexamine made its way into a roadside ditch. This prevented the chemical from traveling into any local drains or streams.

The WVDEP has not issued a citation to the trucking company.

According to the West Virginia Department of Transportation (WVDOT) and Mason County Sheriff’s Department, despite early reports saying otherwise, no traffic accident caused the leak. In fact, passing motorists and truckers alerted the driver to the leak as he was driving in the northbound lane near Three Mile Rd. Erring on the side of caution, the roadway was closed and traffic rerouted on to W.Va. 817 (Old U.S. 35) while first responders determined what the chemical was and if it was hazardous.

Hexamine is flammable but not in the state in which it was discovered after the spill. It was in a diluted solution when spilled and is only a threat if ingested or directly inhaled, Carrie Bly, spokesperson for the WVDOT said. As stated earlier, hexamine is used in the fracking process which is a way of extracting natural gas from shale rock layers.

There were no injuries reported. It was unknown if the Public Service Commission of West Virginia, which regulates trucking, had issued any citations in the incident. PSC personnel, along with staff from WVDEP, WVDOT, local law enforcement and first responders were all on the scene.