by Dan Harper
and Jaye Sudar
WALSENBURG- Wednesday November 19: Nothing ever happens in Huerfano County. Right?
Earlier this year, our Emergency Services held an exercise on Fourth and Main, right next to the railroad tracks. Some people complained that they couldn′t get through and that it was inconvenient. Others enjoyed the hour watching police, EMT′s and firemen run around in circles playing disaster zone. The exercise was declared a success, and everyone took their toys home. Most people were just glad to see the streets clear.
On Wednesday, a Pueblo disposal truck came to pick up the trash at one of the dumpsters near Subway. According to several reports, the truck′s dumpster was giving off a heavy yellow vapor. Officer Jaramillo, one of the first officers on the scene, realized he had a HazMat situation on his hands. Acting quickly as he had been trained, he called Emergency Services.
Colorado State Patrol was called as well as the HazMat teams. City employees, police and sheriff’s deputies blocked off the streets. By 4 pm, firemen in Tyvek suits and respirators were blocking off drains and setting up holding pools so that the toxic waste could be safely captured.
According to Officer Jaramillo, someone had dumped an acid in the trash, and when other liquids had mingled with it, it produced the gas. "It was exactly what we had trained for," he said when asked what was going on. He explained that whoever had improperly dumped the chemicals could have killed someone. People watched from the Loaf ‘N Jug parking lots and across the street as HazMat cleaned up the spill.
Accidents do happen. People don′t take care when dumping dangerous chemicals. So, next time you are waiting around while Emergency Services practices on our city streets, be thankful that someone took the time for training that may save your life.
If you become aware of a hazardous spill or any other toxic event which threatens public safety, please call the twenty-four hour dispatch number for Huerfano County (719) 738-1044.