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image North Tooele County Fire crews work to remove tar from SR-36 before it hardens. The tar was spilled on the road late Monday afternoon.

November 28, 2013
Firemen scramble to remove SR-36 tar spill

A pair of mysterious tar spills during rush hour caused some excitement Tuesday evening, but investigators have yet to identify the source of the sticky substance.

Bucky Whitehouse, emergency services director for Tooele County Emergency Management, said three agencies—the Utah Highway Patrol, North Tooele County Fire and the Utah Department of Transportation—responded to hazmat calls regarding spills at the intersections of SR-36 and Erda Way and SR-36 and Bates Canyon Road around 5 p.m. Tuesday.

Though initially reported as oil spills, he said, it later became apparent that the substance was actually some kind of tar.

The amount of material left at each spill was estimated to be between five to ten gallons. Because the amount of tar was so small, the spills were not classified as hazardous, Whitehouse said.

The emergency services director said that, after closing public access to the affected areas at both intersections, North Tooele County Fire attempted to clean the spills with oil-absorbants.

When this proved ineffective, the fire department shoveled as much of the tar off the road as possible and waited for UDOT to arrive to finish clearing the area. The clean-up effort closed the right lanes at both intersections for about 30 minutes.

Low temperatures made cleaning up the tar especially difficult, Whitehouse said.

Though it is still unclear how the tar leaked onto either intersection, Whitehouse said it seemed likely that a vehicle leaked the material while stopped at both intersections. Troopers drove up and down the road looking for vehicles that could be leaking tar, but were unable to identify the responsible party.

An investigation of the spills is ongoing. Those who may have witnessed the incident are encouraged to contact the Utah Highway Patrol.

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