Chemical spill shuts down I-90 most of Friday

One lane of westbound Interstate 39-90 in Janesville reopened at about 2:30 p.m. Friday after a nearly 13-hour closure because of a chemical spill earlier in the day.

More than a dozen people were evacuated from nearby homes as a precaution, officials said. All restrictions on the residents were lifted and both lanes on the interstate were reopened at 11:50 p.m. Friday, the Rock County Sheriff’s Office said.

The Janesville Fire Department and the Madison Fire Department hazmat team responded to the spill, which happened after a crash involving two semi-trucks just before 2 a.m. Friday near mile marker 173.

One semi was parked on the shoulder, awaiting removal after an engine fire Thursday night. At 1:48 a.m. Friday, it was struck by a second semi coming from Rockford, Illinois, that was carrying what were described as swimming pool-type chemicals.

No one was injured in the crash, but one of the semis was carrying 15 chemicals in 55-gallon drums, and several were leaking following the crash, according to the Janesville Fire Department. The sheriff’s department said four damaged and leaking barrels were found along the highway, and other chemicals had been spilled on the road.

In a news release Friday, the Rock County Sheriff’s Office said the Janesville hazmat team began monitoring neighborhood air quality at about 7 a.m. Friday and recommended the evacuation of five Green Valley Drive apartments as a precaution. The air quality readings did not indicate any danger, and there was no threat to the public outside the immediate area of the spill, officials said.

The Rock County Sheriff’s Office said the Madison hazmat team and the National Guard 54th Civil Support Team assisted at the spill and were released by 2 p.m., a fire officials told News 3.

A cleanup crew, SunPro, of Elkhart, Indiana, arrived at 10:30 a.m. to assist, the Rock County Sheriff’s Office said. Air quality monitors were set up around the spill, and investigators wearing protective equipment were able to enter and evaluate the threat at the site of the spill.

The approximately 19 Green Valley Drive residents who were evacuated were taken to the Ramada Inn on Milton Avenue, Janesville fire officials said. 

In an updated release Friday, the Rock County Sheriff’s Office said hazmat teams were allowing evacuated citizens to return to their residences at 4:30 p.m.. The teams recommend that those that choose to return home inside stay until the cleanup is complete.

Traffic leading up to the Racine Street exit was backed up about three miles. Department of Transportation cameras showed that the exit was still backed up and traffic hampered at 2 p.m. Friday. Officials said one lane of the stretch of roadway that was closed for nearly 13 hours reopened at 2:30 p.m.