Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Mystery truck spills lime on Highway 75

Hailey man fears chemical damaged his new Toyota pickup

Express Staff Writer

Imagine getting limed on state Highway 75, and not with the type of lime that goes well with a Mexican beer.

Chemical lime, also known as quicklime or calcium oxide, is something different altogether, and a Hailey man got the white powdery stuff all over his new pickup when a few sacks of the material fell off a truck last week near Deer Creek Road north of Hailey.

"I don't know how many sacks came off. I missed them, but it just totally covered my vehicle in lime," said Troy Brown, who was southbound at about 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 13, when he encountered a cloud of the material.

The truck was northbound when the sacks fell off. They broke when they hit the pavement. Brown said he stopped, but the truck didn't.

Brown said it cost him $211 to clean his pickup, a 2006 Toyota Tundra that's been driven only 9,000 miles, but he's nervous about possible long-term effects the chemical may have on the truck's finish or its engine.

"It's a bummer," he said. "I went to a couple of body shops and they recommended that I just get rid of it."

Brown said the engine compartment was covered with lime, and a few local mechanics told him that the chemical could damage the engine if any of it got sucked in through the air intake.

"It was in the air filter, and hopefully it didn't get past that, but I don't know," he said.

To make matters worse, Brown said he contacted Toyota and was told the vehicle won't be covered by warranty.

As of Tuesday, no one had admitted to owning the truck that spilled the lime.

"We still can't figure out who it was," said Lt. Ron Taylor, of the Blaine County Sheriff's Office. "We don't have any leads as to whose truck it was. All my leads have dead ended."

Taylor said the truck's driver could possibly be cited for failing to secure his load.

Wood River Fire & Rescue followed the recommended cleanup procedure and washed the chemical off the highway with water.

"I wouldn't think it would be any worse than the salt they put on the roads," said Wood River Fire & Rescue Chief Bart Lassman. "You need to wash that off your vehicle, too."

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, chemical lime is not classified as a hazardous material unless it's shipped by air. Human exposure to the mildly caustic material can cause eye or skin irritation, and inhaling it can cause coughing or breathing problems.

Chemical lime has a variety of uses, but one of the most common in the Wood River Valley is in making brick mortar. Elsewhere, lime is used in the steel industry, in glass production and in refining sugar.

Brown said he was unable to identify the truck, but he hopes there were other witnesses.

"Definitely, I would feel better if someone would come forward and say it was their truck," he said.

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