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Firemen used 100,000 litres of water to clean up a chemical spill on Wednesday morning, after a 13,000 litre capacity tanker overturned at the roundabout off the Uriah Butler/Churchill Roosevelt Highway interchange, leaking an undisclosed amount of sodium hydroxide, a chemical commonly known as caustic soda or lye.
Officers attached to the San Juan Fire Station, under the supervision of Acting Fire Station Officer Derek Mc Lean, responded to the incident around 11 am. They said 100,000 litres of water were used to dillute and wash away the white liquid chemical.
The tanker, carrying license plate number TBH 8639, had been contracted by EASI Industries Supply Limited, a company based in Point Lisas, Savonetta, to transport an undisclosed amount of caustic soda.
Graham Thomas, EASI general manager, speaking with the Guardian today, did not verify the quantity or concentration of the chemical spilt. He said, however, that it would be possible to calculate the amount of the chemical spilt by comparing the amount outlined on the original delivery note with the amount remaining in the tanker after the incident.
"All of those details will be put in our report to the relevant authorities, as required by law and as requested," Thomas said.
Reports on the incident will be submitted to the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) and the San Juan/Laventille regional corporation, he said.
"We'll also report to Health and Safety, OSH, only because the driver had to seek medical treatment," he said.
EMA officials did not immediately respond to phone calls seeking their comment on the situation.
According to police reports, the driver, who has not been identified, was heading north from the Uriah Butler Highway and overturned as it made its way around the roundabout, spilling some of its contents onto the road surface.
Shortly after the incident, the driver was taken to the nearby Mount Hope hospital by workers from the neighbouring San Juan/Laventille Regional Corporation office. He is reported to have suffered minor injuries, and has been discharged.
The accident caused a traffic pile up that inconvenienced motorists using the interchange's northbound exit ramp. Traffic approaching the interchange from north to south was temporarily diverted from the highway to the Eastern Main Road.
No reports of personal injury or property damage have emerged.
Effects of caustic soda
Sodium hydroxide, also known as caustic soda, caustic or lye, is a solution of sodium hydroxide (NaOH) in water. The chemical is commonly used as an industrial agent.
Sodium hydroxide is a potentially dangerous substance that can hurt you if it touches your skin, if you drink it or if you breathe it. Breathing it can cause severe irritation of the upper respiratory tract with coughing, burns and difficulty breathing. The harmful effects of sodium hydroxide depend on several factors including the concentration of sodium hydroxide, length of time exposed, and whether you touched it, drank it or inhaled it.
Contact with very high concentrations of sodium hydroxide can cause severe burns to the eyes, skin, digestive system or lungs, resulting in permanent damage or death. Prolonged or repeated skin contact may cause dermatitis. Repeated inhalation of sodium hydroxide vapor can lead to permanent lung damage.