Cleanup from Chemical Spill and Fire that Shut Down I-24 in Tennessee Could Take Days

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) — Cleanup from a chemical spill and fire near Interstate 24 in Tennessee will take several days, after the interstate was shut down and nearby homes evacuated overnight on Thursday.

Emergency responders were called to the scene just after 9 p.m. when a tractor- trailer carrying peracetic acid and sodium hydroxide caught fire in a shopping center parking lot in Chattanooga, according to the Chattanooga Fire Department.

In addition to burning the semitrailer, flaming liquid chemicals spilled into the parking lot. The vapors from the burning chemicals can cause skin and respiratory problems, so all homes and businesses within a half-mile radius were evacuated, according to the fire department.

A special truck from the Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport responded to the scene with a piercing nozzle that punctured the trailer and injected foam into the truck to put out the fire. In addition, The Tennessee Department of Transportation brought 80 tons of dirt to stop the chemical runoff.

Shortly before 5 a.m. on Friday, incident command reopened I-24 and allowed the evacuated residents to return to their homes. The shopping center and nearby road remained closed.

Officials from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation were providing technical support to local emergency officials, according to TDEC. EPA is also conducting water quality monitoring. Trucking company Averitt Express has hired a remediation company to manage the cleanup.

An preliminary investigation found that a leak from containers inside the truck caused a chemical reaction that resulted in the fire.