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Cleanup and Investigation of Acid Spill Underway

October 25, 1990

ALEXANDRIA, La. (AP) _ A valve loosened by a bump in a road is believed to have caused a hydrochloric acid spill that partially melted an asphalt highway and forced the evacuation of about 200 people, officials said Thursday.

The Wednesday night spill left a steaming trail of melted asphalt on about a half-mile of U.S. Highway 71, said State Police Sgt. Hamilton Mixon.

Five Alexandria police officers were among the 19 people taken to area hospitals and treated for exposure to fumes, said Beverly Herring of the Alexandria Police Department.

″None of them were seriously hurt. The acid fumes kind of burn your skin and make it hard to breathe when you’re in it,″ she said.

A motorist traveling north on U.S. Highway 71 noticed something leaking from a tanker truck after it hit a bump in the road.

The motorist flagged the truck driver down, but not before almost 600 gallons of the acid had spilled onto the highway.

James Kemp, assistant manager of a nearby service station, said he called 911 after noticing the tanker was leaving a trail of steam-like vapor.

″The road was smoking from behind the truck,″ Kemp said. ″It looked like steam rising off the ground.″

A partial evacuation of homes near the spill was ordered shortly after the accident and was canceled about 8 1/2 hours later, said State Police Trooper Michael Hataway.

Hydrochloric acid is a colorless, corrosive liquid. Inhaling its vapor can irritate the mouth, nose, throat and lungs, causing coughing, shortness of breath, pulmonary edema and even death.

Emergency workers spread soda ash powder on the road to neutralize the acid. The company that owned the truck, Alpha-Chem of Reserve, sent a cleanup crew to the scene.

Mixon said officials were investigating possible charges against the truck driver.