Gonzales first responders spent much of Monday night, Nov. 20, dealing with a hydrochloric acid spill that ended up shutting down parts of US Highway 183 and US 90A (Sarah DeWitt) for about five hours.
Gonzales County Emergency Management Director Jimmy Harless said the Gonzales Police Department received a report about a spill in the parking lot at Stripes, 114 US 90A, at about 9:20 p.m. Monday.
“The officer dispatched to the scene said something didn’t look right and called out the fire department,” Harless said. “Firefighters who made the scene said it smelled acidic, so Chief (Wade) Zella was called out to the scene about 10 p.m. and determined it appeared to be hydrochloric acid.”
It was determined that a tanker truck which had been hauling hydrochloric acid used for the processing and cleaning of railroad car tanks was the source of the spill and that the leaking vehicle had taken off down US 183, further spreading the acid on the roadway.
US 183 was shut down from the north intersection with Saint Joseph (near McCoy’s) to the south intersection with Saint Joseph, near Independence Park, with Sarah DeWitt shut down from Saint Joseph west for several blocks. Traffic from US 183 was routed down Saint Joseph to bypass the area until cleanup could be completed sometime around 4 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 21.
“We called in the TCEQ (Texas Commission on Environmental Quality) and Lone Star Environmental out of New Braunfels came and put down ash, which neutralizes the acid,” Harless said. “They then scooped it up and put it into hazmat barrels and hauled it off.”
The vehicle was eventually determined to be involved with the rail yard in Harwood and Harless said he made contact with the company’s safety director and was able to identify the driver, who was working for a third-party contractor. The driver’s information was turned in to the TCEQ regional office in Corpus Christi for further investigation.
Harless praised the job done by Gonzales Fire Department in handling the situation until hazmat crews could arrive.
“They did a great job and did everything right and waited for the hazmat crew to deal with cleanup,” Harless said. “Hydrochloric acid vapors, per our emergency response manual, can travel about 150 feet and you are not supposed to put water on it. They recognized that and handled it right.”