DELTONA – Jeff Carine was driving to Daytona Beach to play golf Tuesday morning when his Toyota Camry hit a mushy, snowlike liquid covering Interstate 4.
Carine, a golfer from Windermere, assumed it was a minor chemical spill and kept driving.
Six hours later, he returned to the spot after hearing news throughout the day about one of the worst chemical spills in Volusia County’s history.
A tanker truck cracked open on I-4 near Deltona shortly before 10 a.m. and released 4,500 gallons of fluorosilicic acid in one big whoosh
Early today, the highway remained closed in both directions, though officials were hopeful it would open by the morning rush hour. About 2,300 people remained in shelters, evacuated from their homes.
The spill sent more than 50 people to hospitals with complaints of skin and respiratory irritations, including some hours after the spill. Most, including the driver of the truck, were treated and released. Two police officers were admitted overnight to Central Florida Regional Hospital in Sanford after complaining of headaches and burning in their throats.
Authorities were frustrated In attempts to neutralize the acid with lime and potash, which delayed I-4’s reopening. Fumes also were detected late Tuesday in the neighborhood of Deltona Woods, causing emergency workers to conduct a midnight door-to-door evacuation.
The Florida Highway Patrol is investigating the spill. A spokesman from Pencco Inc., the Bellville, Texas-based chemical company that owns the tanker, would not comment on the accident late Tuesday.
The tanker truck started out from Fort Meade, south of Lakeland, about 8 a.m. Tuesday, FHP Patrol Lt. Art Brown said.
The truck driver, James Parish, 68, said he was eastbound, just west of the Howland Boulevard overpass, when the rear trailer wheels came out from under the truck. The back of the tanker slammed onto the road and spilled the chemical over an area 600 feet long and 60 feet wide, Volusia County Assistant Fire Chief Ron Bateman said.
A stretch of two miles of 14 was closed between Deltona and Orange City. Vehicles were rerouted off the interstate onto Saxon Boulevard from the west and onto State Road 472 from the east
The detour meant at least an hour delay as bumper-to-bumper traffic inched along U.S. Highway 17-92 through Orange City.
“I never saw such bad traffic in my life,” said Betty Casselman, who was kept from her home in the Country Village Mobile Home Park in Orange City.
Police, firefighters and hazardous waste experts dumped bags of lime over the contaminated area to neutralize the acid and vacuumed the residue with special machines.
Fluorosilicic is a highly corrosive acid used in the process of adding fluoride to drinking water hazardous waste experts said.
If inhaled, it can cause respiratory difficulty, burning eyes and numbness around the Ups. Upon contact with skin, it creates a burning and tingling sensation. Symptoms can take up to 24 hours to appear, medical experts said.
The chemical evaporates quickly and is carried by the wind. Fearing a health hazard, police began evacuating homes within a mile area, including about 1,750 people in Orange City and 500 people In Deltona. Students and teachers at Deltona High School went home early..
Those with symptoms were mostly emergency personnel.
“Most of the people who come in did not have. symptoms,” said Dr. Charles Duva, an emergency room doctor at West Volusia Hospital. “We scrubbed them and washed them down.”
Another man was riding In a truck with his arm hanging out the window, Duva said. The man said he experienced burning on his forearm. He also was released.
Bo Poertner, a columnist for The Orlando Sentinel, spent most of the day at West Volusia Hospital. Poertner was driving behind the tanker and changing a cassette tape when he heard a “big bang.” He looked up and saw the rear trailer wheels bounce and spin in the air.
Poertner swerved to avoid the wreckage and drove through 6 inches of thick liquid that he described as wet cement. He pulled over and jumped out to see if the driver was hurt. The driver was fine but seemed worried.
“He had his hand on his chest like he was really nervous ‘ ” Poertner said. “I told him it was OK and not to worry.”
Poertner and two other motorists stopped and waited for rescue personnel. Others kept driving.
“There are probably many motorists who drove right through and didn’t realize it and some of them might not be being feeling well,” Deltona FIre Capt. Chris Nabicht said.
Carine, the golfer who drove through the chemical, estimates that as many as 150 cars got through before the highway closed. The chemical left a white film underneath his car that must be professionally decontaminated.
“It looked like dirty, mushy snow, 2 to 3 inches thick” he said. “The color … the feel of the road – it was identical to wet snow.”
Elaine Bennett Purvette Bryant, Lynne Bumpus-Hooper and Derek Catwn of the Sentinel staff contributed to this report.
Volusla County authorities have set up four car washes today by appointment only for those wbose might have driven through the chemical spill.
Authorities stressed that motorists should not wash off the chemical film with water. The chemical will dissolve, evaporate and could cause respiratory problems to anyone nearby.
Beginning at 7 a.m., people may call the following numbers to make an appointment (904) 822-6422, 822-6423 and 822-6424.
The locations of washes: Walker Street facility In Holly Hill, Tomoka Farms Road landfill west of Daytona Beach, county facility on State Road 44 west of Deland and the county facility In Osteen on State Road415.
The Orlando Sentinel
September 9, 1994
Agency orders around-the-clock cleanup on I-4
By Mary Murphy
OF THE SENTINEL STAFF
DELAND – As investigators try to determine the cause of a chemical spill on Interstate 4, a federal agency Thursday ordered cleanup efforts to continue around the clock.
“They [Environmental Protection Agency officials] feel it’s a significant health hazard as far as ground water,” said George Gilhooley, district maintenance engineer for the Florida Department of Transportation. “They feel it needs to be worked on continuously.”
A tanker truck spilled about 4,500 gallons of fluorosilicic acid on 1-4 on Tuesday, prompting officials to evacuate residents and close a two-mile stretch of the highway between Deltona and Orange City.
Officials of Florida Spill Response, a Cocoa-based company, say they expect to have the spill cleaned up by Saturday. The eastbound outside lane closed at 7 P.M. Thursday and will remain closed indefinitely, state DOT spokesman Steve Homan said.
James Henderson, a hazardous materials expert with the National Transportation Safety Board, said Thursday night that several factors might have contributed to or caused the accident:
Crininal charges might be filed if the equipment on the truck was not properly maintained, Florida Highway Patrol Lt. Floyd Baker said Thursday.
James Parish, 68, of Bastrop, Texas, was driving the truck, owned by Peneco Inc. of Bellville, Texas. The license tag on the truck expired in March 1994, records state.
Michael Taylor, the on-scene coordinator for the EPA, said the agency wants the cleanup to continue nonstop until the contaminated soil has been removed.
Experts do not know whether the ground water has been contaminated. “At any site you go to, it’s always a danger,” Taylor said, “especially with bad weather.” It rained most of Thursday.
The Public Health Department has advised owners of private wells in the area to have their water tested for traces of the chemical before drinking it.
Robert Pierce, vice president of Florida Spill Response, said he has a geologist testing the area to determine whether acid has seeped into the water table or the aquifer.
Car washes will remain open through this evening. Those. wanting cars decontaminated must make appointments by Calling: (904) 822-6422, 822-6423 or. 822-6424.