Truck overturns and spills acid on Prudhoe Bay tundra

Posted: Thursday, November 01, 2001

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Response crews in Prudhoe Bay continued Thursday to clean up a spill of nearly 1,700 gallons of a hydrochloric acid mixture.

The spill occurred Tuesday when a tanker truck overturned at the oil field. The driver of the truck was not hurt.

State environmental officials said the truck slipped off a gravel road. The spilled mixture covered a patch of tundra about 50-feet by 150-feet near a BP drilling site, 15 miles west of Deadhorse on the western side of the field.

Tom DeRuyter, with the state Department of Environmental Conservation, said the mixture will probably kill the tundra but it's not near any waterways. DeRuyter said the long-term effects are still unknown.

It was too soon to know if the mixture had soaked into the ground, he told the Anchorage Daily News. At least some was mixed with snow.

Response crews worked Wednesday to remove the truck, bringing in a crane to lift it back onto the road. They planned to clean up the contaminated snow and flush the area with water. They also will use magnesium oxide to neutralize the acid if needed, DeRuyter said.

Hydrochloric acid can burn skin on contact and lungs if inhaled, he said.

The truck was carrying a mixture of hydrochloric acid, water and xylene, a hydrocarbon present in oil. The mixture is used to remove mineral deposits that build up on pipes and in the rock underground, which slows the flow of oil to the surface, BP spokesman Ronnie Chappell said.

The truck had left a BP drilling site and was headed to another area when the accident occurred about 2 p.m., DeRuyter said.

Only one of the truck's three compartments appears to have leaked, he said.

A second compartment, also carrying about 1,700 gallons of a hydrochloric acid mix, did not appear to be punctured, and a third was empty, he said.

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