UPDATE: Beaumont Police officers and fire department personnel were on the scene of a chemical spill for more than 19 hours after a tractor trailer overturned on Interstate 10 at Martin Luther King Parkway. All westbound traffic was rerouted off of Interstate 10 down Pine Street.
The truck, which was hauling a cargo container with 60 barrels (55-gallon drums) of tetrachloroethylene, was traveling from the PPG facility in Lake Charles to a PPG facility in Houston when it overturned. Traffic was immediately shut down as the truck blocked the entire westbound side of Interstate 10 as liquid from inside the drums spilled out of the container.
Information obtained by The Examiner indicates the hazardous materials crew responding to the scene had difficulty cleaning up the spill because of equipment issues.
Tetrachloroethylene is used in dry cleaning and is commonly known as dry cleaning fluid; however, under intense heat, it can transform into Phosgene, a chemical weapon used in World War I.
Beaumont Police shut down Interstate 10 at Martin Luther King Boulevard and rerouted traffic around the scene where a box truck containing containers of tetrachloroethylene had overturned.
Police and fire officials said there was a small amount of the chemical leaking from one of the containers and advised caution to residents in the area, however, an evacuation was never formally carried out. The driver of the truck was not seriously injured and escaped with only a few bruises and minor cuts or scratches, likely from glass that broke when the cab laid over on the highway. Emergency personnel interviewed the driver of the vehicle, who said he was transporting the chemical – typically used in dry-cleaning – to a facility from Lake Charles to Houston.
According to material safety data sheets (MSDS) from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, tetrachloroethylene is a probably carcinogen.
“Tetrachloroethylene is widely used for dry-cleaning fabrics and metal degreasing operations,” states the EPA data sheet. “The main effects of tetrachloroethylene in humans are neurological, liver, and kidney effects following acute (short-term) and chronic (long-term) inhalation exposure. Adverse reproductive effects, such as spontaneous abortions, have been reported from occupational exposure to tetrachloroethylene; however, no definite conclusions can be made because of the limitations of the studies. Results from epidemiological studies of dry-cleaners occupationally exposed to tetrachloroethylene suggest increased risks for several types of cancer. Animal studies have reported an increased incidence of liver cancer in mice, via inhalation and gavage (experimentally placing the chemical in the stomach), and kidney and mononuclear cell leukemia in rats. In the mid-1980s, EPA considered the epidemiological and animal evidence on tetrachloroethylene as intermediate between a probable and possible human carcinogen (Group B/C). The Agency is currently reassessing its potential carcinogenicity.”
Emergency personnel said they will have the highway reopened as soon as they can clear up the scene and remove the containers carrying the chemical.