Pocatello man criminally charged after sulfuric acid spill from truck

October 10, 2018
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Brent Carlson

Idaho State Police announced Tuesday that the man allegedly responsible for allowing approximately 60 gallons of sulfuric acid to leak onto state highways and city streets in two Southeast Idaho counties last month has been criminally charged.

Brent Carlson, 59, of Pocatello was cited by Idaho State Police with a misdemeanor for allowing the release of hazardous material into the environment. Carlson was allegedly in violation of a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) standard that is also an Idaho law, according to ISP Capt. Scott Hanson of the Commercial Vehicle Safety division.

On Sept. 27 at approximately 7:15 p.m., Carlson was transporting approximately 80 gallons of 93 to 98 percent sulfuric acid, according to a press release issued by ISP on Tuesday.

ISP Capt. Eric Dayley told the Journal on Tuesday that Carlson works for a Pocatello-based lawn care company called All Green Tree and Lawn Service. The sulfuric acid Carlson was transporting is used as a pH buffer for the fertilizer Carlson uses, Dayley said.

Authorities told the Journal last month that the lawn service truck that Carlson was allegedly driving began leaking sulfuric acid in Soda Springs and continued doing so as he traveled along Highway 30 to Lava Hot Springs. Carlson stopped at the Sinclair convenience store in Lava Hot Springs, leaving behind a very hazardous puddle of the liquid acid, authorities said.

The truck continued leaking acid as it traveled on Highway 30 to McCammon and then onto Old Highway 91 to Inkom and then Pocatello.

Carlson allegedly noticed that his truck was leaking acid at Old Highway 91 and Fort Hall Mine Road. But he continued to travel into Pocatello nonetheless, authorities told the Journal last month.

“(Carlson) noticed the tank holding the acid was leaking as he traveled near Fort Hall Mine Road and U.S. Highway 91 in Bannock County,” ISP said in its Tuesday release. “Carlson continued his trip to 746 McKinley Ave. in Pocatello where he tried to stop the leak.”

His route through the city went from Fort Hall Mine Road to Portneuf Road, Bannock Highway, Main Street, Gould Street and then McKinley Avenue.

Pocatello police began receiving reports about the leaking truck and an officer caught up with the vehicle on McKinley Avenue around 7:15 p.m. on Sept. 27.

Police told the Journal last month that Carlson was trying to stop the leak, suffering burns in the process, when approached by the officer.

Furthermore, the hazardous liquid allegedly spilled by Carlson caused Rob Ashley, 48, of Pocatello, to lose control of his bicycle as he was riding with several of his friends on Bannock Highway in south Pocatello. The sulfuric acid spilled on Bannock Highway created very slick road conditions and Ashley’s bicycle slid out from under him when he hit the liquid.

Ashley suffered a broken hip and road rash in the crash and was transported by private vehicle to Portneuf Medical Center in Pocatello.

Ashley was released from the hospital on Saturday and will be on crutches for the next eight weeks and may have to undergo physical therapy afterward.

ISP said in its Tuesday release that numerous local and state agencies became involved in the mitigation and clean-up of the hazardous material. Dayley confirmed on Tuesday that the Pocatello Road and Bridge department helped with mitigation.

Last month, police advised any motorists who drove through the puddles of sulfuric acid on area roads to immediately wash their vehicles using a commercial sprayer equipped with soap and water. Sulfuric acid can cause serious burns on people. But it can also severely damage cars, especially their tires.

Carlson was not arrested following the incident and his next scheduled court appearance was not listed on the Idaho iCourt case portal. Hanson told the Journal on Tuesday that Carlson has 21 days to appear in court to make an initial plea on the misdemeanor charge and the next court appearance will be scheduled at that time.

If convicted of the misdemeanor charge, Carlson faces up to one year in jail and $10,000 in fines. Carlson could also have permits required for the transportation of hazardous materials revoked.

Moreover, Carlson could face civil penalties from the FMCSA of no less than $78,000 and up to $182,000 if the agency determines that the hazardous material spill resulted directly in severe injury to a person or in substantial destruction of property.

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