An early morning tractor-trailer accident on westbound Interstate 70 near Highland caused a small chemical spill into Silver Lake Thursday. However, officials said the spill was quickly contained and there was no danger to the public or the city’s water supply.
“We think everything is contained as much as it can be, and we don’t foresee any future issues,” said Highland Police Chief Terry Bell said.
Though, as an extra precaution, boat traffic on the lake has been prohibited for the time being.
“It was decided to close the lake access to ensure everything is okay,” said Highland Parks and Recreation Director Mark Rosen.
At 3:27 a.m., the Highland-Pierron Fire Department, Highland EMS and Illinois State Police were dispatched to a single tractor-trailer accident on westbound I-70 at mile marker 27.
According to the Highland-Pierron Fire Department, the driver lost control of their semi truck, which was carrying a mixed load of hygiene products and hazardous materials. The driver’s name was not released by authorities investigating the crash.
The tractor-trailer rolled onto its side, and many of the hazardous material containers — mostly various containers of paint — were damaged and began leaking.
Firefighters had to extricate the team drivers, but they were not seriously injured, according to the Highland-Pierron Fire Department.
Firefighters then turned their attention toward the spill.
Rainy conditions, coupled with the fact the crash occurred on a hillside, caused the leaking products to run toward Silver Lake.
“The big problem was the rain,” Bell said. “It just kept washing everything out.”
Firefighters worked quickly to contain the hazardous materials, although a small amount of the chemicals made it into Silver Lake, according to the fire department, but were then contained to a small area of the lake.
Bell said the city deployed a boom at the 200 foot bottleneck where I-70 crosses the lake at its northern end, to catch any chemical before it made its way down stream, but also placed an additional boom in front of the city’s water treatment plant intake at the lake’s south end.
“We think we’ve done well more than we needed to, just to be safe. ‘Better safe than sorry,’ as the old saying goes,” Bell said.
The boom, as well as the boat used to deploy it, were purchased with money paid to the city by an oil company that was responsible for a July 2015 crude oil spill into the lake. The 2015 spill was caused by a broken fitting at a pumping station near Grantfork. The city purchased a new 24-foot SeaArk at a cost of $35,397 in December for this expressed purpose. Thursday was its maiden voyage.
“It worked out beautifully. We were really happy with it,” Bell said.
Bell said a representative from the Environmental Protection Agency helped monitor the situation, and a private hazardous materials remediation company from St. Louis also helped work the spill.
Bell said boat traffic to the lake would be closed until the EPA gave its OK, and the booms have been removed.
Highland-Pierron firefighters were on scene for seven hours and were assisted by Highland Fire Department. Other assisting agencies included the Illinois Department of Transportation, water department supervisor for the city of Highland, ADR Towing, the city of Highland Street & Alley Department.
Curt Libbra: 618-654-2366, ext 21