Residents of 15 homes evacuated last night near Joppa when a chemical leak was discovered on a tractor-trailer hauling a highly toxic fungicide on Interstate 95 were allowed to return home early today.
No injuries were reported and off-loading of the 70 steel drums to another truck continued throughout the night, said George Harrison, a spokesman for the Harford County government.
Harrison said members of hazardous materials teams from Harford and Baltimore counties and Aberdeen Proving Ground found the leaking drum shortly before 1 a.m. and stabilized the situation.
Wearing head-to-toe protective clothing, the teams came in close contact with the leaking substance, but they reported no ill effects.
The evacuated residents, all of whom lived near the I-95-Md. 152 intersection down wind of the noxious and potentially dangerous chemical, returned to their homes at 1:15 a.m., nearly six hours after the leak was discovered.
Md. 152, or Mountain Road, which had been closed, was reopened when the evacuation order was lifted.
Northbound and southbound traffic on I-95 was not affected.
Harrison said 39,000 pounds of the chemical, chloroacetaldehyde, used in making fungicides, was being hauled in 55-gallon steel drums aboard a tractor-trailer owned by the Overnite Trucking Co., of the 6500 block of Washington Blvd. in Howard County, to Narmaco, a chemical firm in Wilmington, Del. The chemical had arrived by ship from Germany and was picked up last night at the Port of Baltimore.
The Overnite driver, Louis Aurgemma, 34, of Wilmington, learneof the leak from another trucker via citizen band radio.
Harrison said a truck driver following Aurgemma radioed that a fluid was leaking from his truck as the northbound rig neared the Md. 152 exit ramp at 7:40 p.m.
Harrison said Aurgemma pulled off I-95 and parked his rig at a Park & Ride lot near the ramp.
Once State Police were notified of the leak, Md. 152 was closed east and west and the area cordoned off.
Harrison said a hazardous materials team from Harford County along with fire equipment from the Joppa-Magnolia Volunteer Fire Company were dispatched.
Aurgemma was taken to Fallston General Hospital as a precaution, but he was released when it was found he hadn't suffered any ill effects from standing near the leaking chemical.
Later, hazardous materials teams from Baltimore County and the proving ground responded and began the task of identifying the chemical to determine what action should be taken to stop the leak and prevent injuries among the nearby residents.
Harrison said police went to some 15 homes near the Park & Ride lot and told more than 30 occupants to evacuate.
Many went to the Joppa-Magnolia Volunteer Fire Co. station, while others sought shelter with relatives or at a tavern beyond the quarter-mile danger zone set up by the police.
Harrison said absorbent materials were set up near the truck to prevent the leaking chemical from contaminating the ground or subsurface water. Working with caution, the hazardous materials teams took a few hours before they opened the back of the trailer and examined the cargo, Harrison said.
"When they got inside the truck," he said, "they found seventy 55-gallon steel drums stacked in several rows with no more than two drums on top of each other."
Harrison said that once the leaking drum was found, absorbent material was packed around it, isolating the leak.
After the leak was stabilized, the truck moved to the far side of the Park & Ride lot as a precaution.
A truck owned by the GSX Corp. in Laurel, a firm which has a contract with the state to remove contaminated or leaking containers, was dispatched to offload the drums onto the GSX truck.