When one of the largest freight transport companies in the world had one of its large trucks parked on the side of a highway (Interstate 294) in Illinois, HazChem Environmental was called to help. The product spilled on this truck, and on the side of the highway, was acid. Among other issues, acid is a corrosive with the ability to burn skin, cause blindness if it comes in contact with the eyes, and it can also damage the liver, kidneys and the digestive tract. Acid can also contaminate soil and of course it can completely ruin a truck trailer.
The date was Tuesday, August 4, 2020, and the phone call, stating the problem, came to HazChem at 10:30 p.m. This particular freight transport company has been using HazChem to clean up spills for well over a decade.
“Every accidental spill of every single customer of ours is important,” said Alan Shapiro, Co-Owner of HazChem. “But this particular spill was especially critical because it was an acid spill on the side of a major interstate, and there was so much unknown about this spill. The back of the trailer had to be opened very carefully, and we wanted to get out there as fast as we possibly could, while traveling safely.”
Shapiro, his fellow Co-Owner Chris Johnson and three other HazChem employees arrived on the scene at 11:59 p.m.
The driver of the parked vehicle in which the spill had occurred was onsite.
“I could tell their company driver was impressed that he saw our two owners ready to go to work on this particular job,” said E. K., one of the HazChem employees and technicians on the scene and a five-year veteran at HazChem. “We think it says a lot about our company that our two owners are always willing to roll up their own sleeves and go to work, even if it’s in the middle of the night.”
The HazChem crew carefully opened the back of the trailer.
“We could tell right away that this trailer could not properly be unloaded where it was at,” Johnson said. “We were prepared to unload by bringing a forklift to this spill sight, but moving the freight was just not going to be possible.”
The crew did employ oil dry at the back of the truck to make sure nothing further could leak out.
The HazChem crew did neutralize the spilled acid on the ground with a mixture of Bicarbonate and Water. The crew used oil dry to handle the absorption and cleaning up of the liquid.
It had been determined by Shapiro and Johnson and the freight company that the best course of action was to have the driver take the truck back to the closest freight transport company terminal, which was 25.4 miles away. The HazChem crew was to follow the truck back to the terminal and it would be there that the full cleanup would continue.
“It’s always good when we any of us employees get to work with Alan Shapiro or Chris Johnson,” said C.H., a HazChem crew technician on this particular spill-cleanup job and an 11-year employee at HazChem. “Alan has been with HazChem a long time (30 years) and Chris has also been at HazChem a long time (23 years). They’ve both handled thousands of spills, have so much experience, and they both are always glad to pass on their knowledge and experience to the rest of us who work for them. They’re both very good at showing the rest of us the correct way to do things.”
Once the affected truck and the HazChem crew arrived at the terminal, the trailer door was opened and the HazChem crew began unloading the freight. All the while, the crew neutralized each piece of freight, while cleaning up the trailer floor.
Eventually, the crew saw a 1,000-pound battery flipped on its side. The crew up-righted that battery and put it on a new pallet. Of course the damaged battery needed to be neutralized and it promptly was.
The HazChem crew put all the waste (neutralized acid, oil dry, Bicarbonate, water, PPE, contaminated cardboard) into 55-gallon Open-Top-Poly drums. Per the freight company’s request, HazChem transported the drums of waste back to the HazChem shop.
“Chris Johnson and I were happy about the way things went with this spill,” Shapiro said. “Our technicians all worked as a team. Highway spills present a danger so it’s extremely important that all proper precautions be taken — and that’s what our entire team did. Cleaning up Battery Acid is not something to be handled casually, total concentration is required.”
The HazChem crew left the freight company depot center at 3:20 a.m.
“As owners, Chris Johnson and I were happy that the site supervisors at the dock were so pleased with how the truck looked and that no one was hurt and the cleanup job turned out so well,” Shapiro said.
“Accidents and spills happen,” Johnson added. “And when they do, that’s when it’s up to us at HazChem to make sure those spills are cleaned up properly, and that our clients’ employees and our crew members remain safe. We are honored that our clients appreciate our work and call us again and again to handle their accidents and spills.”