Shelter-in-Place Order Reinstated For Tucson After Dangerous Hazmat Spill

An existing shelter-in-place order in Tucson, Arizona was extended Wednesday morning as the result of an extensive risk to public health caused by hazardous materials that spilled from a vehicle rollover on Tuesday.

According to the Arizona Department of Public Safety, “Unified Command has reinstated the shelter in place order for a one-mile perimeter around the incident. While crews were attempting to remove the load from the commercial vehicle, gassing occurred. I-10 remains closed to both directions between Kolb & Rita roads in Tucson.”

Residents in the area were warned by Unified Command that they could expect “extensive closure” at any point, and will need to seek alternate routes of travel if necessary. For anyone within proximity of the spill, they were also recommended to shut off all heaters and air conditioning systems that could potentially bring the contaminated air into their homes.

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The Situation So Far

The situation began Tuesday when a crash involving a commercial tanker truck occurred and cased liquid nitric acid to spill on I-10 near Tucson, forcing authorities and emergency personnel to evacuate the area and shut down the highway until the situation could be under control.

As a result of the hazmat leak, a shelter-in-place order was announced Tuesday evening for residents only within a half-mile radius of the crash when it was initially thought that clean up would only take several hours.

Tragically, it was reported that the driver of the commercial vehicle had died. Specific cause of death– whether it be the crash itself or as a result of exposure to the hazardous materials– has not been specified as of yet.

Nitric acid, which the vehicle was carrying at the time of the crash, is most commonly known for its use in making ammonium nitrate which is used for fertilizer, as well as other industrial purposes. If one were exposed to this directly, it can cause irritation of the eyes and skin. Serious contact could result in worse outcomes such as pneumonitis, bronchitis, and other severe symptoms.

According to USA Today, “Overnight weather conditions set back hazardous material recovery and mitigation” and that “Crews have removed the tractor-trailer’s material, using dirt to mitigate further gassing.”

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Second Major Spill This Month

This is the second major situation this month in which public safety was at risk due exposure to toxic and hazardous materials.

On February 3, a train transporting toxic chemicals derailed in Ohio. The Norfolk Southern train derailed and burst into flames before a toxic cloud began to move towards the rural town of East Palestine, forcing residents to quickly evacuate. Locals weren’t able to return home until emergency personnel were able to burn off the hazardous materials from the scene nearly five days later.

Safety concerns however have not gone away. According to Reuters, Governor Mike DeWine has announced that the pollution caused the by derailment is not an immediate concern for the roughly five million citizens who rely on the water from the stream, that contaminants were later found in, for drinking water.

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