Accidents involving dangerous chemicals cause numerous injuries as well as significant property and environmental damage each year.
Hazardous materials spills may include:
- Biological materials
- Chemical materials
- Radiological materials
Hazardous materials spills may pose a serious risk if not responded to promptly and appropriately.
Large-Scale Hazardous Materials Spills
Hazardous material spills can occur while hazardous materials are in transit. They can occur due to truck accident, train derailment, or ship accident, or accidents in factories. They may occur as a result of explosion or another unintentional occurrence. Spilled hazardous materials from overturned tanker trucks or factory explosions may cause not only severe injuries to anyone involved in the accident, but they also pose a severe risk of environmental and property damage to the surrounding area.
Some of the more famous instances of large-scale damage resulting from the spilling of chemicals include:
- The Exxon Valdez disaster in 1989, in which 11 million gallons of crude oil spilled into Prince William Sound causing extensive environmental damage.
- The Songhua River disaster in China where an industrial explosion caused the release of approximately 100 tons of benzene compounds into the Songhua river, prompting the shutdown of the municipal water system.
- The Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in 2010, in which an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon Macondo oil drilling platform killed 11 workers and resulted in millions of barrels of oil being released into the Gulf of Mexico over a period of weeks
Hazardous Spills and Truck Accidents
Though few hazardous materials spills are considered “major” disasters, each year in the U.S. about 14,000 highway and railway accidents result in hazardous materials spills, often including deaths, injuries and property or environmental damage that costs millions of dollars to contain or repair.
Even the smaller scale incidents can cause significant damage. Tanker trucks on the road are frequently used to ship hazardous materials including oil, gasoline, and various harmful chemicals. Hazardous waste that has been spilled on the road after an accident, poses a risk to other drivers and passengers, as well as pedestrians and any residents that live near the scene of the spill.
As an example, in Linden, New Jersey, an 8,500-gallon tanker truck carrying gasoline overturned onto its passenger side spilling approximately 2,000 gallons of gasoline into the street and down into the storm sewer system. The gas spill prompted the immediate evacuation of roughly 100 local residents in the surrounding five-block area, due to the presence of flammable vapors spreading throughout the neighborhood.
The dangerous gas fumes in the area may have been the cause of a fire in a house near the accident. The home was burned and rendered uninhabitable by the fire. Many of the residents were forced to spend the night in shelters or with family outside of the affected area. As the gasoline was cleaned up, the residents were not permitted to re-enter their homes until the fire department was able to test each home for remaining gas fumes.
Responding to a Hazardous Materials Spill
Proper response is essential in order to minimize personal harm, as quickly as possible.
Quick and safe response should include:
- Rescue – evacuate spill area, decontaminate with safety showers or eyewash as possible, seek emergency medical assistance
- Confine – confine spill area by closing doors, isolating contaminated persons, covering drains as possible
- Report – report spill promptly to appropriate emergency response personnel or agency, follow with appropriate reporting to environmental or safety organizations
- Secure – secure spill area until emergency response personnel arrive to ensure no one else is exposed
- Cleanup – cleanup should be conducted by qualified personnel
Seeking Legal Assistance
If you or a family member has suffered personal injury or property damage as a result of a hazardous materials spill, you may need to seek legal assistance. In some cases, compensation may be available for medical costs, lost wages and other damages but you should discuss your case with an experienced attorney before signing anything.
Contact us regarding Hazardous Materials Spills; attorney consultations are free.