Paint spill closes Route 97 for more than eight hours

Tractor-trailer hit pole, spilled load in Union Mills

July 02, 2004|By Gina Davis | Gina Davis,SUN STAFF

A tractor-trailer carrying 2,500 gallons of paint ran off the road early yesterday, spilling white paint across Route 97 in Union Mills and closing the highway for more than eight hours, authorities said.

State highway workers cleaned the road, restriped it and reopened it in time for the evening rush hour, police said.

The accident occurred about 7 a.m. when William M. Burton, 43, of Joppa was driving north from Baltimore to Gettysburg, Pa., and lost control of his truck along an incline and struck a utility pole, cutting it in half, police said.

When Burton hit the pole, straps holding 10 plastic barrels filled with latex paint were severed. Some containers were thrown as far as 100 yards, said Richard McIntire, a spokesman for the state Department of the Environment, which assisted in the cleanup.

Although the investigation continues, state police said speed appears to have been a factor in the accident. No other vehicles were involved, and no one was injured, police said.

The paint containers struck two other utility poles and state highway signs, spreading the paint over the road.

"It's a white, sticky mess," said state police Sgt. James Long.

But the thickness of the paint, used to mark highway lanes, is the reason it did not reach nearby Big Pipe Creek, McIntire said.

Because it was a latex paint, which is water soluble, MDE officials said they were not concerned about any harm to the environment.

However, MDE set up filtration fences near the stream as a precaution because rain could mix with remnants of the paint, possibly causing it to run into the stream.

State highway workers mixed dirt with the paint to alleviate the discoloration on the road, to slow its movement and to make it easier to clean up, McIntire said.

"The road is beige-ish," he added.

Some of the paint containers from the tractor-trailer spilled onto the entrance road leading to the Union Mills Homestead, a museum and grist mill that dates to 1797, said G. Michael Whitson, chief of the county Bureau of Facilities.

The county owns and maintains the 10-acre tract along Route 97. Except for some paint on the entrance road, there was no damage to the Homestead, Whitson said.

Contractors for the trucking company's insurance company are cleaning up the paint, he said.

Contractors are expected to work into the evening and tomorrow removing soil and dried paint along the side of the road, McIntire said.

Sun staff writer Hanah Cho contributed to this article.

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