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Pesticide covers California 99 after crash

July 04, 2007|From the Associated Press

EARLIMART, CALIF. — A pickup crashed into a big rig carrying boxes of powdered pesticide on California 99, causing an explosion that left the road covered with toxic chemicals, authorities said Tuesday.

The fiery crash was reported shortly after 9 p.m. Monday, just south of the small town of Earlimart, about 40 miles north of Bakersfield, the California Highway Patrol said. The semi truck was carrying chlorpyrifos, a commonly used insecticide.

No one was injured in the crash, but the pickup's driver was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence, the CHP said. The blaze was extinguished and the spill was cleaned up by dawn Tuesday.

Northbound California 99 was reopened by midafternoon after crews repaired damaged parts of the roadway, CHP officials said.

"The driver of the pickup truck was drunk and basically sideswiped the big rig, which caused damage to one of the fuel tanks and caused the big rig to come to a stop in the slow lane," said Scott Harris, a CHP spokesman in Visalia.

Residents of Earlimart, the site of a major pesticide drift incident in 1999 in which more than 250 people were sickened, said Tuesday that they were concerned about the burning pesticide's effect on air quality.

"My nose is still burning so badly," said Teresa DeAnda, an Earlimart resident who represents the advocacy group Californians for Pesticide Reform. "We could see a big, big plume of smoke and it smelled of burned firecrackers."

Emergency vehicles were sent to the town but no one was evacuated, DeAnda said.

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