Chemical spill closes Interstate 80 for hours
Interstate 80 was shut down in both directions Tuesday morning after a hazardous material spilled from a FedEx truck near the Agriculture Station in Truckee.The driver of the truck reported a suspicious smell to CHP just after 9 a.m., said Kirk Bromell, CHP information officer. No one was injured in the incident, and several chain installers and a CHP officer reported eye irritation from the chemical. Initial reports to dispatchers said the driver was unconscious, but Bromell said the driver walked away from the scene unscathed.At approximately 10 a.m., eastbound I-80 traffic was being rerouted around the affected part of the interstate, causing gridlock on surrounding roads throughout Truckee. Westbound I-80 was closed at the Highway 267 interchange. Passenger cars were allowed to travel on westbound I-80 at 11:10 a.m., and trucks were held at the state line.Environmental clean-up crews were mopping up the spill into the evening Tuesday. The truck was carrying 10,000 pounds of material and spilled a 2,200-pound container of the commercial solvent heptane into a storm drain along eastbound Interstate 80 at a rate of three to five gallons per minute, said Gene Welch, Truckee Fire Protection District information officer. The spill was not caused by an accident, and it is unknown what caused the tank to leak, Bromell said.Heptane is a colorless, flammable liquid with a mild, gasoline-like odor that is harmful if inhaled, according to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration.The substance was earlier identified as isopropanol, commonly known as rubbing alcohol, Welch said.Welch said it is unknown at this point what caused the leak.Officers reported there was very little exposure to the materials, and no one was evacuated from the area.Businesses within a 1,000-foot radius of the spill were notified to stay inside during the incident.Students and staff at Tahoe Truckee High School and Truckee Elementary School, which are next to I-80 where the spill is occurring, were told to remain indoors.Reno-based H20 Environmental cleaned up the spill and fire and paramedic units from Truckee Fire Protection District, Donner Summit Fire Department and North Tahoe Fire Department have been called to the scene.