Arizona Highway Chemical Spill Requires ‘Shelter In Place’ Protocol

A hazmat spill on Tuesday afternoon following a rollover accident on Interstate-10 near Tucson, Arizona, has resulted in a shelter-in-place order for residents within a three-mile radius of the crash. The truck involved in the accident spilled nitric acid. This potentially hazardous material can cause delayed pulmonary edema, bronchitis, dental erosion, and other health problems. The driver of the truck died in the accident.

According to the Pima County Office of Emergency Management and Tucson Fire, several local and state agencies responded to the scene, with crews working tirelessly to clear the wreckage. However, gas was released overnight as they tried to remove the load from the wrecked vehicle.

Initially, authorities requested that people in the area turn off their heaters and air conditioning units because they might bring in outside air. But officials later gave the green light to resume using them. Unfortunately, the shelter-in-place order had to be reinstated on Wednesday morning for those within a one-mile radius of the incident.

The Arizona Department of Public Safety closed Interstate-10 between Rita and Kola Roads in both directions, with motorists advised to seek alternate travel routes.

The University of Arizona Tech Park was among the areas evacuated, and the Arizona Daily Star reported that some schoolchildren in Rita Ranch were among those who sheltered in place. Those who had been evacuated had been told to continue to stay away as of late Tuesday.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nitric acid is a highly corrosive, colorless liquid with yellow or red fumes that cause an acrid smell. It is used to make ammonium nitrate for fertilizers and manufacture plastics and dyes.

The spill comes just more than a week after a train derailment in Ohio caused officials to hold a “controlled release” of five derailed train cars containing vinyl chloride to avoid a “catastrophic explosion.” In this case, residents in the area were told to shelter in place while a hazmat team worked to contain the spill.

It remains unclear when the area around the Tucson crash site will be deemed safe for residents, but Unified Command anticipates an extensive closure. As a result, motorists in the area were advised to prepare for significant impacts on their commute as the week continues.