MEDWAY, Maine — Personnel from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and a hazardous materials contractor began on Tuesday to remove soil along the highway contaminated by chemicals after a lost and allegedly drunken Tennessee truck driver spilled his load late Sunday.
“What we’re doing is some excavation up there to remove anything we can see,” Barbara Parker, DEP division of response service director, said on Tuesday. “Once the excavation is finished, we’ll take some samples” to see if more digging is needed.
A total of 12 plastic totes, each that can carry up to 330 gallons of chemicals, leaked after the crash and 10 were empty, John Selleck, DEP oil and hazardous materials specialist who works out of the Bangor office, said on Monday.
“Most of it ended up on the ground,” Parker said.
Later in the day Donna Gormley, director of education and outreach for the Maine DEP, said crews had bagged leaves soaked with hazardous chemicals, filled four 20-yard roll-off containers of contaminated soil and two 20-yard roll-off containers of crushed metal and plastic tote containers. She said the only container not to spill was one 300-gallon tote containing citric acid. A total of 1,200 gallons of hazardous liquids were recovered at the site — including the citric acid, she said.
Gormley said there is a “culvert which runs from the crash area — under the northbound lanes into the median — to another culvert under the southbound lanes to a stream which connects with Salmon Stream Lake. DEP [employees] took water samples in and along that stream to test for hazardous substances.”
Today, Gormley said, crews will continue to excavate contaminated soil. Soil samples are being sent to Maine Environmental Testing. The DEP is awaiting results of that testing to determine the levels of contamination which determine how to handle and dispose of the soil.
The truck driver, Kenneth Taylor, 45, of Memphis, Tenn., was carrying papermaking chemicals to the Verso Paper Co. mill in Bucksport and somehow missed his turn on Interstate 95 by nearly 75 miles before he drifted off the right side of the roadway at mile marker 255, which is in T1 R6.
Taylor, who was driving a 2006 Peterbilt tractor-trailer for MLG Trucking, of Memphis, was arrested and charged with aggravated operating under the influence. The OUI charge was upgraded to a felony because of the crash and Taylor’s high level of intoxication, Trooper Thomas Fiske of the Maine State Police said.
The highway was closed to traffic after the 9 p.m. crash on Sunday while the Penobscot County hazardous material response team of Orono and Old Town, with help from East Millinocket firefighters, isolated the area and identified the chemicals.
After determining the toxicity of the chemicals, listed as corrosive and flammable papermaking chemicals and industrial biocide that is used in water treatment facilities, the DEP allowed one lane of the highway to open at 5:15 a.m.
Sodium hydrosulfide, citric acid and other caustic acids along with glutaraldehyde and Busan 1210, the two common industrial biocides, are the chemical names on the inventory list, Parker said.
The DEP used a special Vactor truck to vacuum up as much of the spilled chemicals as possible on Monday and that vehicle returned on Tuesday, she said.
The excavated soils are considered “special waste” and eventually will be placed into a certified landfill, but which one and whether it will be an in-state or out-of-state facility has not been determined, Parker said.
“We’ll have to see what landfill can take the materials,” she said.