Caustic spill affects Kennewick traffic

Bob Brawdy, Tri-City HeraldJuly 25, 2013 

A Richland woman didn't see the two containers in the middle of Columbia Center Boulevard in Kennewick as she drove to work in the dark at 3:45 a.m Thursday until it was too late.

Shana Grosclaude said she heard a "horrible sound" as she crossed through the intersection of Columbia Center and West Quinault Avenue and drove about a block to her destination at Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Store where she works as a freight coordinator.

That's when she noticed an orange five-gallon bucket stuck under the front of her 2012 Nissan Juke.

"I pulled it out and felt that it was wet and then started to feel a burning sensation on my fingers," Grosclaude said.

"Then I saw the red plastic gas can stuck under the car and tried pulling on it but couldn't get it out."

She called 911 to report what happened and to be checked by emergency medical technicians.

"They gave me some wipes to clean my hands. The EMTs later told me it was a caustic material," she said. "They stayed with me for about two hours to make sure I was OK."

About seven hours later the paint on her car appeared to be speckled with the dried chemicals. "It's already eating away the paint," she said.

Grosclaude said a police officer told her the materials were possibly from a batch of methamphetamine.

"I was angry ... very angry at the drug people around here," she said.

Kennewick police Sgt. Ken Lattin said police didn't know what was in the containers but said it might be oil or diesel fuel. Martin Nelson, assistant engineer with the city of Kennewick, said a vehicle carrying caustic materials spilled its load early Thursday. Grosclaude and other vehicles driving through the area then tracked the chemicals down the road.

The Department of Ecology responded to investigate the spill and tested the liquid and found it be caustic, he said. The Kennewick Fire Department worked to manage the spill and prevent it from going into the catch basins and ultimately the river, Nelson said.

The city's Street Department set up cones and barricades to keep traffic out of the dirty lanes and adjusted the traffic signals to help the flow of traffic. The southbound lanes of Columbia Center Boulevard were closed for several hours for the cleanup work.

The state Department of Ecology contracted with NRC Environmental Services of Pasco to clean the spill, Nelson said.

-- Bob Brawdy: 582-1548; bbrawdy@tricityherald.com

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