By Patricia Ann Speelman
SIDNEY — A tanker truck traveling south on Interstate 75 sprang a leak as it neared the exit at Ohio 47 in Sidney Tuesday morning and spewed liquid anhydrous ammonia into the air for several hours.
The Dave Hausbeck Trucking vehicle had filled up in Lima and was carrying some 70,000 gallons of the liquid that is used on farms in fertilizer. The chemical also has various industrial applications. The driver said he “discovered the leak when he heard a noise coming from his rig and pulled over to investigate.” He parked on the exit ramp of Exit 92 and called 911.
The call came at 9:37 a.m., Sidney Fire Chief Brad Jones said.
More than 50 people from Sidney Fire Department, Sidney Police Department, Shelby County HAZ-MAT, Ohio State Highway Patrol Piqua post, Ohio Department of Transportation and Public Utilities Commission of Ohio HAZ-MAT response team and anhydrous ammonia industry experts from Lima converged on the scene.
Interstate 75 was closed from Ohio 29 to U.S. 36 in Piqua. In Sidney, Michigan Street was closed from Vandemark Road to Fourth Street. Fourth Street was closed from Michigan to Russell Road and Russell Road was closed to the interstate. Jones said that the county’s Hyper-reach notification system was used to alert residents, employees and shoppers at homes and businesses in that circle to evacuate or stay inside.
“We can draw a circle on the map and anyone who has a landline or a cell phone that’s been registered in that circle will get the message,” Jones said.
Sidney City Schools canceled summer school classes for the day.
An unidentified staffer at Kroger said that the store had been told to evacuate, “but after management talked to the police, they said we could stay open but just stay inside.”
A worker at Taco Bell, who refused to identify himself, said no one there had received a call about evacuation.
“The (staff at the) gas station (which is next door to the restaurant) was called and told us,” he said. The restaurant remained open, but with roads closed in all directions around it, business was scant.
“We had seven cars from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.,” said assistant manager Robin Armour. The usual number of cars is 150. She would not estimate how much money the eatery lost Tuesday.
A call to Buffalo Wild Wings was not answered at 3:30 p.m., but was reportedly evacuated and closed for the day.
Snarled traffic off the interstate as far north as Botkins and south in Piqua brought travel to a standstill throughout most of the afternoon as side streets clogged with big rigs and cars seeking alternate routes. A multi-vehicle accident at Exit 106 of I-75, reportedly involving several semis, may have been caused by the back-up. Additional details on the accident were not immediately available.
At about 1:30 p.m., a second Dave Hausbeck Trucking tanker slowly pulled off the southbound I-75 entrance ramp at Michigan Street and moved next to the disabled tanker so the transfer of what was left of the product could take place.
Staff at the DHT home office in Reese, Mich., refused to comment on the incident.
Lt. Joseph Gebhart of the Ohio State Highway Patrol said OSHP motor carrier units, civilians, would inspect the truck after haz-mat officials declared it safe.
Local officials began to open the interstate and various Sidney intersections at about 3:15 p.m.