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Iowa City: Semi Spills Herbicide in I-80 Construction Zone

Even in seemingly idyllic rural southeastern Iowa, a commercial-truck accident can wreak havoc on human and environmental safety. A recent trucking accident on heavily traveled east-west corridor Interstate 80 stopped and rerouted traffic for several hours midday while officials worked feverishly to contain a 200-gallon herbicide spill.

The hazardous substance, Roundup Weather Max, spilled into the nearby ditch after the truck "slipped off the road" and tipped over. The driver was taken to an Iowa City hospital and apparently no other vehicles were involved.

However, several public agencies - including the Johnson County Hazmat Team - helped with the cleanup that involved building dirt dams, soaking the substance up with sand and "absorbent pads," and righting the truck with heavy equipment to stop the chemical flow.

The accident occurred in a construction zone, typically a higher risk stretch of highway.

Hazardous materials spilled in truck wrecks can present environmental and health damage to many parties, including adjoining landowners or tenants, firefighters and law enforcement, drivers, passengers and bystanders. Depending on the substance, potential contamination of rivers and other water sources could be disastrous to the public, especially in heavily populated areas. Also dangerous are those chemicals that give off dangerous fumes.

Such a disaster could potentially require public evacuation, injuries and even death, to say nothing of damage to the surrounding environment.

Source:, "Crash Closes I-80 East of Iowa City, Leaks Herbicide," Haley Bruce, May 30, 2012

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