HAZARDOUS material shipments thru Tulsa

Thursday, May 3rd 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

A fiery crash on US Highway 75 near Ramona Tuesday took the life of a truck driver who was hauling hazardous material. You may wonder, just how many dangerous items are hauled through Tulsa County?

KOTV's Tami Marler says thousands of trucks travel through the Tulsa area on a given day, but there's another mode of transportation that takes tons of hazardous chemicals all over the world, and we rarely hear about it. The accident on Highway 75 left one man dead and dozens of emergency workers scrambling to secure a potentially explosive scene. Oklahoma Highway Patrol, Lt. Eddie Kirkland, "The material in the tanks, gaseous hydrogen. It's not dangerous to breathe it." It is a serious explosive, just one of many chemicals that travel Oklahoma highways, and this is just one of many of what the U.S. Department of Transportation calls "incidents." There were 224 last year, with one fatality. That's compared with 12 deaths nationwide. Some propose a safer mode of transportation for hazardous materials. Bob Portis with the Catoosa Port Authority says, "Each one of those barges will hold the equivalent of 60 semi trailer trucks. And all of those locks between here and the Mississippi will handle eight of those barges and one towboat at a time. So obviously, that 480 semi-trailer trucks that we're taking off the road, which is a real plus." Portis says statistics bear-out his point. "In 1999, there were one-point-7 billion barrels of petroleum products moved by the barge and towing industry, and of that amount, only 38-hundred barrels ended up being spilled." He calls it a phenomenal percentage.

There are other modes of transportation at the Port. Ted Stapp of Southern Missouri Oil says he uses them all. "I would prefer water transportation, just for the fact that it's safer and uh, the statistics show that there are far less accidents on the road. Friendlier to the environment, less disruptive to the public." Friendlier, because barges like this one take about 100 semi-tractor trailers full of potentially hazardous chemicals off the road. And help to avoid scenes like the one near Ramona on Tuesday.

A 1996 Tulsa County study showed hazardous incidents most often happen on highways. After that, rail cars, which carry the deadliest materials, waterways ranked last.