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Responding to Roadside Spray Rig Incidents

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October 13, 2022
Toby Crow, Corteva Agriscience Emergency Response and Security

We have all noticed these vehicles traversing the roadsides of the places that we live and work. They are usually referred to as roadside spray trucks or roadside spray rigs. These trucks typically operate safely, and without incident. But as with any vehicle, accidents can occur. As a first responder, these incidents can add complexities outside of the usual transportation incident based on what the truck is carrying or what is in the truck’s onboard tanks. 

The typical roadside spray rig operates in a similar fashion as a brush or wildland fire fighting apparatus. The usual arrangement is a flatbed mounted to a heavy-duty chassis, and a tank, pump, and hose/sprayer system.  Another arrangement could be a skid consisting of multiple tanks mounted to a trailer. The tanks can vary in sizes from 250 – 3,000+ gallons. These tanks are typically filled with a solution of herbicides (solute) and water (solvent); however, tank contents can vary widely depending on what is being treated. These trucks can be utilized as a very cost-effective method of vegetation control along roads and are also utilized for agricultural use and may be seen on roadways while traversing between fields.

The contents of the tanks can vary widely, and it is common for multiple herbicides and products to be mixed into one tank, adding to the complexity of developing an incident action plan if these tanks begin to lose their contents during an incident. It is also common for these vehicles to be utilized in close proximity to ditches, drains, and other sensitive areas. One important element of your incident action plan after initial incident size up and securement of the scene might be to determine long and short term impacts of the spill, and develop a remediation plan. 

The best option for obtaining detailed information to assist in development of an incident action plan outside of the ERG and your department’s standard operating guidelines, would be from the manufacturer of the different components of the solution in the tank. This makes obtaining the Safety Data Sheets (SDS) from the driver/operator a critical step. There is a wealth of information in these safety data sheets, and of importance, the emergency telephone numbers supplied by the manufacturers. If the tank components are from different manufacturers, ensure that you call the emergency telephone number for each to obtain the correct information. If SDS are not readily available, try to obtain the label from the product, which should also list the manufacturer name and contact number. Sometimes a company such as CHEMTREC will be listed for several of the manufacturers which will reduce the amount of calls that first responders need to place. In order for the manufacturer to provide you with the most accurate information, you should be prepared to provide the following details:

  • Product Name
  • Amount of the product that was mixed in the tank
  • What solvent was utilized for dilution such as water
  • Amount of solvent in the solution
  • Names of the other products that are in the tank
  • Total amount of solution spilled
  • Type of surface that is impacted or soil type
  • Proximity of environmentally sensitive areas such as ditches, rivers, streams, or aquifers. 

Having accurate product information from the manufacturer will help to develop a quality incident action plan and will support appropriate remediation measures to protect people and the environment.