Semi truck collides with cow herd, causing toxic mess south of Akeley
A 4-mile stretch of Highway 64 south of Akeley was blocked off early Wednesday morning after a truck driver carrying a vat of hydrochloric acid, oils and industrial parts came over a hill, struck a herd of cows in the road and sent vats of the fluids and pallets of parts crashing inside the truck bed.
A hazardous materials team was called in from the Moorhead Fire Department to help with the cleanup efforts.
The northbound semi truck was carrying parts destined for the Polaris Industries plant in Roseau. Upon impact, the load shifted in the truck, sending the parts, the oil and the tank of acid forward in the truck trailer.
Hubbard County Sheriff Frank Homer said although some nearby residents were evacuated as a precautionary measure just after the 2:20 a.m. crash, no dangerous fumes other than an initial whiff escaped into the dense foggy air.
The driver, identified as Shannon Monkman, opened the rear doors of the truck following the accident, allowing some fumes to escape. Six cows died in the mishap.
Monkman was taken to St. Joseph's Area Health Services, examined and released. It was determined the container of acid, which was owned by Polaris Industries of Roseau and is used as a parts cleaner, had not escaped its plastic shell, Hubbard County Chief Deputy Jerry Tatro said.
Monkman was exposed to fumes from the oil on board, Homer said.
Emergency personnel, state highway crews and law enforcement officers were called in to set up a blockade around the area from Akeley to County Road 33, directing traffic away from the spill.
The Moorhead Fire Department Hazardous Materials Chemical Assessment Team cleaned up the spilled oil and the highway reopened at 11 a.m.
"We were very, very fortunate," Homer said. The highway is surrounded by wetlands; the sheriff said it could have been a catastrophic event if the chemicals had spilled onto or off the roadway or escaped into the atmosphere.