Haz-mat Crews Called to Accident - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Haz-mat Crews Called to Accident

YAKIMA, Wash -- A semi-truck turning onto 24th avenue smashed into a power pole this morning. It took out three large transformers and damaged another.

Within minutes, Haz-mat crews along, with police and fire, responded to the accident.

"The biggest problem we were concerned with," said Lt. Ron Johnson of the Yakima Fire Department, "the leakages of fluids from transformers."

In addition to generating power, transformers generate a lot of heat. In order to cool older transformers, chemicals called PCBs are added. Concerns over their potentially dangerous affects on humans and chemical stability in the environment led Congress to outlaw the use of PCBs in 1976.

Newer transformers use a safer mineral oil as a coolant. However, anytime power transformers are damaged, emergency crews treat them as if they contained PCBs -- and take all necessary precautions.

Today, the generators were new and did not contain PCBs. Still Haz-mat crews treated the mineral oil seriously and used bags of of a granular absorbent named Floor Dry to treat the spill.