Firemen hose down cars contaminated by a chemical spill Wednesday. David Grace photo.
KINGSPORT - Emergency crews closed both eastbound and westbound lanes of Interstate 26 near Interstate 81 about 9:30 a.m. Wednesday because of a chemical spill.
Authorities said a 150-pound cylinder filled with sulfur dioxide fell from a truck and was struck by another vehicle. According to the NET News Service, the truck was registered to DPC Enterprises.
Sulfur dioxide is a colorless, nonflammable gas that can be life-threatening if a person is exposed to high levels of the gas.
I-26 was closed from the Gray exit to the I-81 interchange late into Wednesday afternoon. About 3 p.m., Washington County emergency officials said they were in the process of opening the highway, but minutes later Kingsport officials asked that the road be closed again while specialized equipment was brought in to aid with the cleanup. Both lanes were eventually reopened about 4:30 p.m.
Local hazardous materials response teams were on the scene, and officials said two people who were traveling in the vehicle that struck the fallen container, as well as a firefighter on the scene, were taken to Holston Valley Medical Center for precautionary treatment.
Sulfur dioxide is sometimes used as a preservative in alcoholic drinks, dried apricots and other dried fruits.
In the presence of water, sulfur dioxide is able to decolorize substances, making it a useful reducing bleach for papers and clothes. Sulfur dioxide also is used to make sulfuric acid.
Officials said no evacuations were necessary, and the spill posed no immediate threat to the public.