About 30 Harford County residents, who were evacuated last night after a highly toxic chemical was found leaking from a truck, were back in their homes by about 2 a.m. today, and State Police continued to investigate what may have caused the leak.
Residents of about 15 homes near Joppa were evacuated last night when the leak was discovered on a tractor-trailer hauling 39,000 pounds of the highly toxic chemical, chloroacetaldehyde, which is used in making fungicides. There were no injuries, but authorities said they were cautious because the chemical can irritate the eyes, throat and respiratory system.
"We don't know what caused the leak," Chuck Jackson, a State Police spokesman, said today. He said officials with the State Police Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Division were checking the truck's records and trying to determine whether there were any safety infractions.
Officials said the evacuated residents, all of whom lived near the Interstate 95-Md. 152 intersection, where the leak was discovered, returned to their homes more than six hours after the leak was discovered.
Md. 152, or Mountain Road, which had been closed, was reopened when the evacuation order was lifted.
George Harrison, a county government spokesman, said the chemical 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, learned of the leak from another trucker via citizens 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.
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.
Harrison said police went to homes near the Park & Ride lot and told more than 30 occupants to leave.
Many went to the Joppa-Magnolia Volunteer Fire Co. station, while others sought shelter with relatives or at a tavern beyond the quarter-mile safety zone set up by police.