State authorities are investigating whether to pursue charges against the operator of a truck that they suspect leaked a fungicide for several miles through Rotterdam and Princetown on consecutive nights last week.
Rick Georgeson, a regional spokesman with the state Department of Environmental Conservation, declined to discuss the case in detail. But he said the agency is testing the leaked substance, which is believed to be chloroacetaldehyde, a toxic chemical sometimes used as a fungicide.
“It’s still under active investigation,” he said Monday. He would not release the identity of the truck owner.
The spill was first reported to Rotterdam police by a resident on Mariaville Road, who spotted the substance leaking from the truck as it passed by his home Wednesday evening. Police were unable to locate the truck.
Then, on Thursday evening, a truck matching the description passed by the Plotterkill Fire Department on Putnam Road. Fire Chief John Tobiassen said members of the department tracked the leak nearly three miles before catching up with the driver, who stopped on Ennis Road in Princetown.
“Once the vehicle went by, we noticed a fresh trail,” he said.
Tobiassen said the county’s hazardous materials team was alerted. However, he said it was later determined the spill wasn’t posing any immediate threat.
“The way that it was leaked out did not pose an immediate hazard,” he said.
Chloroacetaldehyde vapor is a severe irritant of the eyes, skin and mucous membranes, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Direct contact with a liquid solution can cause severe eye and skin burns, among other toxic effects.
Tobiassen said the chemical was believed to be leaking from a tank on the rear of the truck. But he said none of his firefighters actually witnessed the chemical leaking.
“It was strange the first night and then to have it happen a second night,” he said.
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