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Ohio's hazmat spills rank second highest in nation
Hazardous materials damage, cleanup cost state $1.8 million last year, 10th year at top of ranking
Associated Press
09/16/03


COLUMBUS - Ohio ranked second last year in the number of hazardous-material spills on highways, railways and in the air -- the 10th consecutive year that it has either had the highest or second-highest number of spills, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The 1,223 spills last year trailed only the 1,324 spills recorded in Illinois.

Last year, spills in Ohio resulted in $1.8 million worth of damage and cleanup. Most highway spills involved a corrosive chemical such as an acid or a flammable material such as gasoline.

The federal transportation agency said 90 percent of the highway spills occurred because of human error, including dropped or punctured packages. Another 8 percent were the result of corrosion or a defect in the packaging, such as an improper seal.

Despite Ohio's record, ``I don't think it's as bad as it looks,'' said Rob Marvin, transportation director for the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, which inspects trucks and trucking companies.

He said the state is doing a good job of getting cargo companies to follow the regulations on carrying hazardous chemicals.

He said heavy truck traffic crossing Ohio is mostly to blame for the spills. The Ohio Department of Transportation said the state has the fifth-highest volume of truck traffic in the United States.

``This is the last category Ohio wants to be a leader in,'' said Jack Shaner, a spokesman for the Ohio Environmental Council.

``This is why we need strong safeguards and why we need to enforce them vigorously,'' he said. ``No one would want a hazardous material percolating into their well or under the school playground or in the nearby stream.''

Last year, FedEx Ground had 484 highway spills, nearly half of the total number of highway spills and nearly 400 more than Yellow Freight System, the second-ranking company.

FedEx Ground spokeswoman Allison Sobczak said the high number of spills was partly due to the company's high volume of traffic. FedEx Ground has 10 hubs in Ohio.

``We certainly take safety very seriously,'' she said. ``I think that the number represents we're reporting every one'' of the spills.

Federal law requires that companies report all spills. The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency requires notification of spills involving at least 25 gallons.

There were no reported spills in Ohio's waterways last year and 34 spills on railways.

Airborne Express was responsible for 63 spills -- about 75 percent of the state's 85 air spills last year.

Considering that the hub in Wilmington handles nearly 20,000 packages a night, 63 spills isn't a bad record, said Beth Huber, a spokeswoman for ABX Air, which transports packages for Airborne Express.

``Spills are just a part of being in the business of transporting freight,'' she said. ``Customers don't always package the materials as they should.''

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