Crews clean up chemical spill at US 84, 391 in Ludowici - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Businesses evacuated briefly after flammable chemical spill in Ludowici

Crews wear masks as they clean up the Black Liquor substance. Crews wear masks as they clean up the Black Liquor substance.

A spill of a chemical so caustic that it may have melted an officer's shoe occurred Monday.

Ludowici-Long County Fire and EMS responded to the spill just before noon.

It happened at the intersection of U.S. 84 and U.S. 301. Four businesses were shut down as the chemical was safely contained and removed, but it caused some early afternoon scares.

At about 11:30 a.m. Monday, a Subway shop,  Parker's gas station and two other businesses were told to evacuate along Highway 84 in Ludowici. A 75-foot radius was closed off for a short time.

"They said they had some chemical issue last night and that is why they have to shut down the road and everything," Jay Patel, the owner of the Ludowici Subway, told WTOC.

The timing was not exactly ideal for Patel and his Subway lunchtime rush.

"Yeah, it was lunch time. We lost a little business," Patel said. 

It was soon very clear, the evacuation was necessary after a chemical spilled from a truck leaving a 75-foot trail of the substance. 

"One officer said it was burning his shoes," Chief Richard Truman told WTOC.

Truman, the Ludowici-Long County Fire and EMS chief, said city workers had tried cleaning the chemical up, chopping the now-hardened liquid into pieces, but the powder form made it even more flammable and problematic.

Responders had to cover their faces with surgical masks. The businesses stayed shut down and hazmat crews from Savannah responded.

"They checked the chemical compound and informed us what it was," Truman said.

Investigators out at the scene at first thought they were dealing with Polystyrene. But it turns out the chemical that spilled was in fact Black Liquor, a paper making chemical. They had to block off the area, closing both lanes of 84. Later, just the westbound lane was closed. Traffic was detoured and businesses were forced to close because they weren't sure how severe it was, Truman said.

Businesses were told they could be closed for any amount of time, but within an hour, the four businesses were are back open and cleanup had begun. 

One problem, upwind from the mess, was a brush fire about a mile away off Old Macon Darien Road. Fire crews were busy again, at the same time, fighting the fire. It was contained and workers from the Georgia Forestry Commission cut out an area to let it burn out on its own.

Back on Highway 84, tarps, soil and equipment were brought in to keep the powder from blowing away, making it easier to clean up.

"Sill they are cleaning a little bit, but all safe," Patel told WTOC.

A small portion of U.S. 84 was shut down, but as of 6 p.m., everything was open. No one was injured or harmed and the area is back to normal.

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