Sulphuric acid spill closes Highway 60 for hours

Sulphuric acid spill shuts down Hwy 60

BARTOW - Hazmat crews spent most of the day Tuesday cleaning up a dangerous acid spill that shut down a section of Hwy 60 near Bartow for over 12 hours.

A truck driver hauling sulfuric acid made a hard stop at Hwy 60 and Rifle Range Road around 5:45 a.m. Tuesday, according to Polk County Fire Rescue spokesperson Brad Ruhmann. 

When he did, six pods, each containing 250 gallons of the corrosive liquid, went over and off the rig.  Close to 1,000 gallons spilled onto the roadway.

Ruhmann says authorities immediately sent out a reverse 911 call to area residents and businesses to warn them of the spill, because sulfuric acid can be very dangerous if inhaled. Thankfully though, Ruhmann told us, the wind was blowing toward a direction where there were no area residents, so no evacuations were necessary.

That was good news for those who live nearby, but it wasn't the same for the truck driver, identified as Eric Garland of Wauchula, Florida.

According to Ruhmann, he "got out of the truck, and from what I understand, he attempted to clean up some of the mess." Which was not the right thing to do.

Garland was airlifted to Tampa General Hospital suffering from second-degree burns to 10 percent of his body, mainly his legs.

Florida Highway Patrol says there is a long list of regulations in place to prevent these type of spills. All drivers not only need a commercial driver's license, but also a special permit to transport chemicals.

"Motor carrier drivers are required to understand and know what they're transporting at all times," said Sgt. Steve Gaskins with FHP. "They're also required to do pre and post trip inspections of their load, and periodic inspections as well throughout their routes."

Polk Fire Rescue says the company involved in the accident is Davis Supply Inc. based in Fort Myers.

According to the Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, this was not the company's first incident.

The agency reports two previous chemical spills in 2010 in Florida, with one caused by an abrupt stop. There were no reported injuries in those accidents.

Davis Supply Inc. was also fined more than $500 last year for unloading materials improperly, according to the agency.

ABC Action News left several messages on the phone numbers listed on the company's web site, but has not received a call back.

The road was finally opened by 6:45 p.m.

Editor's note: Reverse 911 is a registered trademark of Cassidian Communications

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