Gas spill shuts exit ramp A sulfur dioxide cloud formed after a truck spilled waste on a Blue Route ramp in Montco

Source:, June 9, 2007
By: Jeremy Rogoff

Residents of parts of West Conshohocken and Upper Merion were advised to stay indoors yesterday after a dump truck carrying 40,000 pounds of sulfur waste overturned yesterday morning on a Blue Route off-ramp, spilling its load and causing a cloud of hazardous gas to form.

Traffic was snarled for hours.

A three-axle truck traveling from a Delaware County Sunoco refinery to Lansdale was exiting the northbound Blue Route onto the westbound Schuylkill Expressway at 7:52 a.m. when it tipped onto its left side.

The driver, Michael R. Gee, 31, of Philadelphia, was treated for lacerations to his left arm at Bryn Mawr Hospital.

“Twenty-five minutes after the load tipped, it began to smolder,” said Sgt. Robert Tyler of the Pennsylvania State Police in Philadelphia. Tyler said the spilled sulfur mixed with either the diesel fuel or hydraulic liquids from the truck and formed a cloud of sulfur dioxide gas 50 feet high and 50 feet wide.

Tyler said the gaseous cloud prompted officials to issue the warning to stay indoors, close windows and turn off air-conditioning intake units. The warning lasted about a half-hour.

There were no reports of adverse health effects as a result of the spill, according to Lou Chiccarine, the duty supervisor with the Montgomery County 911 center.

Officials took soil and air samples to monitor the spill’s environmental effects.

Hazardous-materials crews used sand and water to clean the spill and removed contaminated dirt, officials of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation said.

Exposure to high concentrations of sulfur dioxide can cause irritation to the eyes and breathing difficulties, according to the federal Department of Health and Human Services.

The heavily traveled ramp was closed for much of the day as traffic was rerouted. It reopened to traffic at 5:31 p.m., PennDot said.

By late afternoon, trees and other vegetation near the accident site had turned dark brown.

Tyler said the cause of the accident was being investigated. He said that while authorities did not suspect alcohol was a factor, “it is standard protocol for commercial drivers to have blood taken” for testing.

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