Kern County Fire Department officials brief emergency personnel prior to having hazardous materials crews move in to assess the chemical spill on Interstate 5. El Tejon School is across the freeway. [Meyer photo]
UPDATE; LEBEC (Friday, June 13, 2008, 12:35 p.m.)—Southbound lanes of Interstate 5 were re-opened at approximately 12:30 p.m. Hazardous Materials crews, according to KCFD spokesman Tommy Brown, have determined that the chemicals ethylene-oxide and ethyl-methyl ketone had not mixed with the resin solution (Kerimid) onboard the truck and, therefore, he said, it was safe to open the southbound freeway lanes, while cleanup efforts continued. Had the substances mixed together, he said, there was potential for combustion or explosion.
LEBEC (Friday, June 13, 2008, 9 a.m.)—Southbound lanes of Interstate 5 have been closed from the junction of Highway 99 to Fort Tejon since 7:15 a.m. according to California Highway Patrol Officer Mark Ehly. Northbound lanes are open.
Kern County Fire Department spokesperson Tommy Brown and CHP Officer Ehly said a driver following a big rig saw a substance leaking from the truck, waved the driver over and then notified authorities. This occurred about 1000 yards north of the Fort Tejon overpass. "This is happening directly across from El Tejon School," publisher for The Moutain Enterprise Gary Meyer reported from the scene at 10 a .m. Friday. School ended last week and no students are on campus. If they were, the school would have had to be evacuated, Meyer reported that officials on-scene said.
KCFD spokesperson Tommy Brown initially said his notes indicate the substance may be ethylene-oxide. He also referred to ethyl methyl, which is used as a hardening agent in resins. Brown said at 11:30 a.m. that though the big rig was likely carrying these substances, he is still uncertain what precisely the spilled item may be.
A hazardous materials crew has been brought in to assess the substances involved and conduct the clean up. Kern County Fire Department engines are blocking entry into the scene. The clean up is still in process. "it will take a few more hours," a spokesperson at the Ft Tejon office said Friday morning at 9 a.m.
Breathing problems, eye injury and other impacts are said to be possible from the substances named and HazMat suits are being used by the cleanup crews.
Road closure updates can be obtained at the Highway Patrol’s help line, 1-800-427-ROAD.
This is part of the June 13, 2008 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.
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