Evacuation Order Lifted After I-24 Chemical Spill

Posted at 5:25 AM, Dec 14, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-14 23:50:49-05

The evacuation order has been lifted for residents in Rutherford County, following an early morning chemical spill on Interstate 24. No major injuries were reported.  

The incident happened early Wednesday morning on Interstate 24 at mile marker 87, between Joe B. Jackson Parkway and Epps Mill Road.   

Two semis were involved in a crash, causing one of them to catch fire and spill pool supplies - including chlorine tablets. Other unknown chemicals may have been involved, as well.  

The one that caught fire was off the westbound shoulder. The second tractor trailer ended up on the eastbound shoulder. It was carrying sugar.

The sugar had to be offloaded crews weren’t able to start that cleanup until TEMA gave the OK, which is why eastbound side of I-24 was expected to take longer to reopen.

More than 100 residents were forced from their homes as a result of the incident. 

Crews were able to extinguish the blaze by dumping dry chemicals on the smoldering truck. Rutherford County officials said it's now safe for residents to return home.  

At least 150 homes near Buchanan Estates and Rankin and Aldridge Road were evacuated after residents were previously asked to remain indoors and turn off their HVAC units. 

Other roads affected included Epps Mill Road, Miller Road, Capitol Way, Rankin Road and Aldridge Road and near the Dollar General store. 

Emergency officials were seen going door to door, alerting neighbors of the evacuations.

"They [officers] have been pretty efficient with everything this morning. They came through earlier with SUVs and PA systems and with sirens going off, so that notified everybody what was going on," said resident Lorenzo Sparks.

A shelter was set up at the Patterson Park Community Center in Murfreesboro. Red Cross officials said they closed at 1 p.m. after the all-clear was given. 

A total of 38 people and 15 dogs signed into the temporary shelter, but not every homeowner evacuated the area.

What Is Chlorine? 

Chlorine is the most widely used disinfectant in water and wastewater treatment plants in the world.

Chlorine itself does not burn, but it does give off fumes and can be explosive if mixed with gasoline. First responders have been monitoring the risk of smoke or vapors which can burn eyes, skin and lungs. 

Crews with the Environmental Protection Agency were called to the scene to monitor the situation.  

Anyone who experiences coughing or other respiratory issues may want to consider consulting a doctor. 

'No Reason To Close Schools At This Time' 

Officials with Rutherford County Schools said the spill did not affect schools directly and there was "no reason to close any schools."  

However, bus routes did not run in those areas included in the evacuation. School officials said parents should follow instructions of emergency personnel.  

I-24 Closed In Murfreesboro: 'Do Not Get Out Of Your Cars' 

A five-mile stretch of the interstate has been blocked by the crash. Drivers were rerouted in both directions. 

Rutherford County officials said earlier that drivers should not get out of their cars for any reason. 

One lane of the interstate's westbound lanes was reopened just before 3 p.m. and one lane of the eastbound lanes was reopened around 4:45 p.m. The entire scene wasn't cleared until about 9 p.m.

Troopers with the Tennessee Highway Patrol are working with local agencies to assist stranded drivers. Anyone in need of help was advised to call *THP (*847).  

One of the semi drivers suffered minor burns and was taken to St. Thomas Rutherford Hospital, while the other was taken to Vanderbilt University Medical Center with non-life threatening injuries. 

A woman, who was reportedly homebound, was also taken to St. Thomas Rutherford Hospital as a precautionary measure.