07/16/08 — Toxic gas leaks from tanker truck near Kenly

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Toxic gas leaks from tanker truck near Kenly

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on July 16, 2008 1:44 PM

KENLY -- Authorities have evacuated several homes, a truck stop and five other businesses along Interstate 95 near Kenly after a truck began leaking a toxic chemical early this morning.

According to Johnston County authorities, the truck was traveling in the northbound lane when it pulled into the TA Truck Stop at exit 106.

The driver and one passenger were both treated, with the driver currently in stable condition at Johnston Memorial Hospital in Smithfield.

There were no reports of other illnesses or injuries among the other residents and travelers evacuated.

The exact number of people evacuated from the area is unknown, said Melanie Proctor, a spokeswoman for Johnston County Emergency Management Services. The surrounding residences and businesses were notified via the county's reverse phone system.

"We don't know the actual number of people who were evacuated, but we do know 219 phone numbers were called," she said.

A Red Cross shelter was opened at North Johnston Middle School, where only one person sought help.

The leak was reported at about 3:30 a.m. after a vapor cloud was seen around the truck.

Responding was one of the state's seven hazardous materials regional response teams from the Raleigh Fire Department.

"They have it contained. It's a very contained area," Ms. Proctor said this morning at about 9 a.m.

They did, however, close off several roads in the area -- N.C. 301 from Bay Valley Road to Little River Bridge and the intersecting Jay Howell Road. Both north and southbound lanes of I-95 are open, but officials with the state Highway Patrol said exit 106 also is still closed.

They did not know how long those measures would be in place, nor how long clean up will take, adding that the best advice would be to just steer clear of the area for now.

The truck, which according Johnston County authorities is owned by trucking company Transwood Carriers, was reportedly traveling from Aurora to Texas. The company leasing the transport was PCS Phosphate.

The chemical leaking from the truck was silicon tetrafluoride, a colorless gas with a pungent odor that can cause respiratory problems.

"It's a serious chemical," said Trooper J.E. Brewer, a spokesman in the state Highway Patrol's public affairs office.

The hazmat team is still investigating the exact cause of the leak, but in the meantime, will also be working today to transfer the chemical into another truck.

"That's what's going to take a while, so the area will remain closed for the time being," Brewer said. "We believe it was a faulty valve or something like that. There wasn't a wreck or anything. It came from the tanker itself. The driver pulled into the truck stop and noticed the leak."

-- The Associated Press contributed to this report.