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Summit County

Rail Trail closed; contamination "poses lethal risk" to pets and people

Rail trail.jpg
Summit County
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The Rail Trail

The Rail Trail could remain closed for a week or more as the hazmat crew from Park City Fire District and Summit County’s environmental health team work to clean up a raw chemical spill. The coming storm Friday could complicate those efforts.

The semi-truck that crashed in Tollgate Canyon Tuesday afternoon may have had an equipment malfunction that led to its driver losing control and rolling it over. Utah Highway Patrol spokesman Cameron Roden said that while the UHP investigates that, Park City and Summit County crews are working to clean up an unknown amount of organic peroxide that spilled from the truck into a storm drain nearby, making its way into Silver Creek.

Summit County Health Department spokesman Derek Siddoway said cleanup involves first limiting spread with dams and determining the extent of the contamination. Starting Thursday, crews will start pumping out contaminated water and excavating contaminated soil. That could take a week, he said, but the chemical is water soluble, and Friday’s storm could spread anything not yet removed, which may complicate and lengthen the cleanup process.

“So definitely a mess, that's for sure. Because this is water soluble it means that if we get some more snow or rain, that it can potentially spread it and then of course just handling the cleanup when it's muddy and rainy, that presents some additional challenges as well. And another concern is for the excavation, you know, depending on how much moisture we get if the ground is extremely muddy, that can help to saturate and spread the chemical into the ground more. So just a lot of different complications that can come with inclement weather.”

The county contracts with hazmat disposal companies from Salt Lake City who will take away the dirt and water.

Siddoway said crews are running tests to determine the extent of the contamination. He said the chemical dilutes in water and dissipates, and that there won’t be any threat to drinking water or the Weber River downstream.

Organic peroxide is a raw chemical used in many products, including hand sanitizer. Neither Siddoway nor Roden said they could comment on who owned the truck or where it was going with its cargo.

Near the accident site where the peroxide is concentrated, the water is tinged with a deep red, and exposure or consumption could be potentially lethal.

“Those are the biggest areas of concern and that's the area that we have closed off organic peroxide is still off gassing mean that it in minor cases it's still an irritant to breathe in or to get on your eyes. Our concern is also for any pets, especially those that may be off leash that get into it. Again, it's an irritant if it gets on the skin but drinking that definitely is something that we don't want anyone's pet to do.”

Siddoway said early estimates were that the truck was carrying 40,000 pounds of the chemical, but it wasn’t known how much of that spilled and how much burned when the truck caught fire.

The crews worked through Tuesday night and will keep at it, trying to get as much done as possible before Friday to lessen the chance of the chemical spreading further. The total cost of cleaning up the spill won’t be known for some time.