An alert motorist minimized the impact of a chemical leak this morning, by flagging down a truck driver on Interstate 880 south near Marina Boulevard and warning of what turned out to be a sodium hydroxide spill.
Commonly known as lye, sodium hydroxide can cause lung damage when breathed in sufficient volume, or chemical burns if it comes in direct contact with skin.
The incident, which began at about 9:20 am Wednesday, has caused California Highway Patrol officers to block off two lanes of southbound traffic while cleanup crews in green suits and face masks sop up an estimated 180 gallons of the noxious chemical.
"We're lucky it happened where it did," according to CHP Officer Zach Hunter, who said the leaking truck pulled over at a spot where a tall sound wall prevented sodium hydroxide vapors from drifting into nearby residential areas.
Hunter said the good fortune actually began when a motorist noticed liquid leaking from rubber containers on the back of a flatbed truck and waved the truck driver over to the side of the highway at just this spot.
Hunter said the truckdriver called CHP. Officers brought in a hazardous waste cleanup crew and shut two southbound lanes while they worked. Hunter said north bound traffic is unimpeded, and there is only a slight slowdown heading south.
Exactly when the spill will be cleaned and the lanes reopened isn't clear. But all the stars aligned toward public safety in this instance, Hunter said, because there were no drains in the area through which the chemical could escape, and it pooled in a way that made for an efficient mop up operation.