TEUTOPOLIS, Ill. (WMBD) — Highway 40 has reopened and Teutopolis residents have been allowed to return home as Illinois State Police announced Sunday they are wrapping up the emergency response to the anhydrous ammonia spill.
The large group made up of the ISP, the National Transportation Board (NTSB), Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA), Illinois Emergency Management Agency and Office of Homeland Security (IEMA-OHS), Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), and Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), along with the Effingham County Sheriff’s Office, Teutopolis Fire Protection District, and other law enforcement, fire, and emergency management agencies in Effingham County worked together to clean up and respond to a multi-vehicle accident that occurred Friday night.
The NTSB held a media briefing Sunday afternoon to give updates on the situation as well.
Board member Tim Chapman began the briefing by offering condolences to families of the lives lost due to the spill and to those impacted by the accident.
He continued by commending law enforcement who responded to the accident.
“We are also grateful to and want to commend the law enforcement and first responders’ personnel who participated in the emergency response to this crash, as well as the hospital staff responsible for treating the injured,” said Chapman.
He said there is an investigator on the scene who is there to work with the families of those who were involved in the accident.
The IDPH is also working with the local department to monitor the situation as well as provide help to those who suffered from the incident.
“IDPH is working with our local health department partner to monitor the situation and provide
needed support,” said IDPH Director Dr. Sameer Vohra. “We remind residents to ventilate their
homes upon return. If they detect unusual odors, they should leave immediately and call 911.
IDPH is also working on guidance regarding testing of private water wells in the immediate
vicinity of the incident to check for possible contamination. We remain in consultation with the
local health department and the Illinois Department of Agriculture regarding animals and livestock in the area and procedures for transporting them for veterinary evaluation.”
Chapman continued the briefing by saying the NTSB’s investigation is a safety investigation, meaning it is parallel to the law enforcement’s investigation. He said he arrived at the site Saturday to begin a preliminary investigation of the crash site.
“Here’s what we know,” Chapman began. “At about 8:40 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 29, a tanker truck operated by Prairie Land Transport Ltd. of Brownstown, Ill., was traveling westbound on U.S. Highway 40 near Teutopolis.”
“Preliminary information indicates that another vehicle may have been involved in a passing maneuver near the tanker truck,” he said. “The driver of the truck appears to have reacted by pulling to the right. The tanker truck departed the roadway. After departing the roadway, the truck rolled over and the cargo tank was compromised.”
The cargo tank had about 7,500 gallons of ammonia at the time of the accident, and roughly 4,000 spilled out during the course of the accident.
“Damage to the cargo tank resulted from the collision of the tank with a parked utility trailer,” Chapman continued. “As it rolled over, the tanker truck jackknifed and exposed the head end of the tank. As momentum carried the tank forward, it came into contact with the hitch on the utility trailer. The hitch punctured the cargo tank, leaving a hole approximately six inches in diameter. Damage to the tank led to the release of anhydrous ammonia.”
He said as his team looks at several different factors of the incident, they are looking specifically into cargo tank crashworthiness, hazardous materials routing, and operations of the motor carrier.
“Our investigative team will be on scene for four to six days and a preliminary report is expected to be published in about 30 days. Final reports take between 12 and 24 months to complete,” Chapman said.
As the NTSB investigates the incident, they are asking for witnesses with information and video of the incident to send footage to witness@NTSB.gov.
“Our investigators will work to thoroughly document relevant evidence and gather additional factual information,” Chapman said. “Our mission is to understand not just what happened, but why it happened and to recommend changes to prevent it from happening again.”
This caused about 500 Teutopolis-area residents to be evacuated from their homes and caused five deaths and multiple injuries.
The IEPA is working to ensure contamination from the accident is properly addressed, and the ISP is continuing to investigate the cause of the accident and is performing traffic crash reconstruction.