1998 September: Bulahdelah Chemical Spill. Pesticide: Paraquat

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Toxic Truck Spill Drama

Newcastle Herald Wednesday September 23, 1998

By ELLEN CONNOLLY

MORE than 1000 litres of deadly pesticide spilled near Bulahdelah yesterday forcing the closure of the Pacific Highway for 17 hours.

The chemical spill occurred at 2am when a truck rolled down an embankment at Wootton and sparked one of the biggest clean-up operations in the State’s history.

The Victorian truck driver’s 11-year-old son, Cameron, who was asleep in the cabin, was trapped for a short time.

He was flown with his father, Jason Senior, to John Hunter Hospital and later released.

More than 50 firefighters were involved in recovering the 700 drums, which toppled over the embankment in the crash.

Wearing breathing apparatus and protective suits, officers spent the day mopping up the toxic pesticide.

The semi-trailer was packed with drums of Gramoxone, a herbicide used widely in farming but if ingested it can kill.

Hazardous Material Units from Sydney and Newcastle were called with brigades from Taree, Bulahdelah and Forster.

`The pesticide is highly toxic and very dangerous,’ a fire brigade spokesman said.

`A large number of the drums split open when they came off the truck.’

Officers from the Environment Protection Authority were at the scene, concerned at the threat to nearby waterways.

An authority spokesman said miraculously the spill did not cause major environmental damage.

`This is a big spill but in terms of environmental harm it will only be short-term to the soil,’ he said.

Mr Senior said he was relieved his son was asleep in the cabin and not in the passenger seat, which copped the full brunt of the accident. Traffic was diverted around the Lakes Way and the highway was reopened at 6.30pm.