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Leaking Hazardous Material in Transportation Results in HazMat Incident, but was it Reported?

Leaking Hazardous Material in Transportation Results in HazMat Incident, but was it Reported?

The discovered leak of toluene and xylene from a 55-gallon drum transported by Wisconsin highway in February 2014 was reported and contained with, “…no real danger to life and health” according to Fire Chief of the responding community.  While that is certainly something to be thankful for, it then remains to determine if the HazMat Incident Reporting requirements of the PHMSA/USDOT were followed.

By reviewing the information available regarding the leak and the Hazardous Material Regulations, we will be able to determine if the correct HazMat Incident Report(s) were filed.

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First, a review of the facts (read the full news report with the WI DOT News):


The driver of the tractor/trailer, his employer the carrier, and the shipper of the HazMat were not identified in the release.  Responding emergency agencies included:

  • Hixton Fire Department
  • Jackson County HazMat
  • Eau Claire HazMat
  • Jackson County Sheriff’s Office
  • Wisconsin State Patrol
  • Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
  • Jackson County Emergency Management

Initial responders temporarily closed Wisconsin State Highway 121 as well as the off-ramp at Exit 98.  STH 121 was re-opened at 5:46pm.  The exit 98 off-ramp remained closed for several more hours.

Location of HazMat Incident near Hixton, WI

The truck with the leak was parked on the westbound off-ramp of I-94 (exit 98)

Off-ramp for exit 98 on westbound I-94 near Hixton, WI and Northfield, WI.


Monday afternoon February 3, 2014.  Initial responders (Hixton FD) responded at 3:17 pm.


Tractor/trailer unit transporting a placarded quantity of toluene and xylene in non-bulk packaging was reported to have a leak.

Question:  Does this qualify as a HazMat Incident?  And if so, what type of HazMat Incident Report must be filed?

As you can see from an earlier article I wrote:  Who is Responsible for Submitting the Hazardous Material Incident Report? There are two types of HazMat Incident Reports:

I believe that both of these two reports were necessary based on the facts available.  First, one of the criteria for submitting the Immediate Notification pursuant to 49 CFR 171.15(b)(1) is as follows:

As a direct result of a hazardous material—

…A major transportation artery or facility is closed or shut down for one hour or more.

I think the closure of Wisconsin State Highway 121 for what I estimate to be 2.5 hours (3:17 pm initial response to “reopened at 5:46 pm”) is sufficient to meet this criteria, therefore an Immediate Notification to the National Response Center would have been necessary within 12 hours of the incident.

Now let’s consider the criteria for submitting the Detailed or Written HazMat Incident Report using DOT Form F 5800.1.  Pursuant to §171.16(a) the Written Report is required within 30 days of any of the following incidents during transportation:

 Any of the circumstances set forth in §171.15(b);

An unintentional release of a hazardous material or the discharge of any quantity of hazardous waste.

It is my belief, based on the available information, that both of these criteria were met by this incident.  A circumstance set forth in §171.15(b) took place, ie. a major transportation artery was closed for more than one hour.  And, an unintentional release of a hazardous material occurred.

How to find out if this HazMat incident was reported?  Simply follow this link to the PHMSA HazMat Incidents Report Database.  Once there, enter the date of the incident using the specified format (02/03/2014) and scroll down the page to select “Search” (tip: don’t enter in any other data).  Your results will include all HazMat Incidents reported for that date.  Look for E-2014020102 and you’ll see that this spill did indeed qualify as a HazMat Incident that required reporting.

Are you a Shipper or a Carrier of a hazardous material?  Then you must be aware of the PHMSA/USDOT regulations pertaining to  HazMat Incident Reporting and those for HazMat Employee Training (aka:  HazMat Courses, HazMat Certification, 49 CFR Training, etc.)  I can help you with both.  Please contact me for a free training consultation.

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