Residents within a one-mile radius of a truck crash in Tucson, Arizona, were ordered to shelter in place on Tuesday afternoon after the vehicle spilled a load of nitric acid.
Both directions of Interstate 10 near Kolb Road were closed as first responders mitigated the situation, according to a report from KGUN-TV. The Pima County Department of Environmental Quality is determining whether the radius for the shelter in place order should be expanded.
“The Department’s Hazardous Materials Response Unit, along with partner agencies, are working together to mitigate the incident,” Arizona Department of Public Safety spokesperson Raul Garcia Jr. said in a statement to the Arizona Republic. “Out of an abundance of caution, first responders are working to evacuate a perimeter around the area of the incident.”
The Arizona Department of Public Safety said on social media that the agency expects an “extensive closure” and asked residents to “avoid the area.”
Nitric acid is a “colorless liquid with yellow or red fumes with an acrid odor,” according to a report from the CDC, and is used to manufacture fertilizers, dyes, and explosives. Exposure to the highly corrosive substance can cause “irritation to the eyes, skin, and mucous membrane,” as well as “delayed pulmonary edema, pneumonitis, bronchitis, and dental erosion.” Images shared by the Tucson Fire Department indeed appeared to show yellow and red fumes emanating from the crash site.
The incident in Arizona follows a train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, where a malfunctioning axle on a Norfolk Southern train caused the vehicle to crash and leak volatile industrial chemicals. Local and state authorities evacuated all residents within one mile of the February 3 crash and started a controlled burn of the chemicals to decrease the risk of an explosion. Vinyl chloride, a carcinogenic material, was released from five train cars in the form of massive plumes of dark smoke visible throughout eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania.
Emergency personnel and citizens who did not evacuate the area are enduring symptoms such as sore throats, coughing, headaches, and diarrhea in the days following the controlled burn, according to one first responder interviewed by The Daily Wire on Tuesday afternoon. Residents were told they could safely return to their homes less than one week after the controlled burn.
Beyond the release of vinyl chloride, Norfolk Southern warned the EPA that a number of other volatile industrial chemicals were spilled at the derailment site. One train car containing ethylene glycol monobutyl ether currently has an “unknown status,” according to Norfolk Southern, while the amount of ethylhexyl acrylate in another car is still “pending.”
Another train containing hazardous materials derailed on Monday morning near Splendora, Texas, after a semi-truck collided with the vehicle. Union Pacific spokesperson Robynn Tysver confirmed with The Daily Wire that the company sent a hazardous material crew to examine the crashed train, which was carrying products such as paint and aerosol cans intended for retail. Although the train spilled 100 gallons of diesel fuel, none of the chemical substances were released. The derailment is presently under investigation; the semi-truck driver passed away, while crew members of the train did not experience any injuries.
Lawmakers and government officials have called for investigations in response to the Ohio train derailment. The United States has witnessed nearly 55,000 train derailments since 1975, according to data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, including more than 1,000 derailments in 2021 alone.