Hazardous Material Barreling Through Las Vegas

Every year, millions of tons of hazardous waste material travel through Clark County by way of road, rail and pipeline. Most people don't even know it's there until there's a problem. 

Las Vegas has had its share of those problems. The U.S. Department of Transportation reports 202 hazmat incidents involving trucks in the Las Vegas area from 2004 to 2014.  

In 2011, a tanker truck carrying 9,100 gallons of gas rolled over and exploded on Interstate 15 near the Lake Mead Boulevard Exchange.

In 2009, workers installing underground fiber-optic cable along Eastern Avenue ruptured a natural gas line near Tropicana Avenue.

In 2007, a rail tanker holding toxic chlorine gas escaped a train yard near Blue Diamond Highway and rolled 20 miles parallel to the Strip through downtown Las Vegas.  

None of those examples resulted in fatalities, but that doesn't mean they can't happen.

According to the 2015 Hazardous Materials Emergency Response Plan, which uses data from 2008, about 125,000 trucks haul 2.7 million tons of hazardous cargo to and from Clark County. 

In August, an explosion and fire at a hazardous material warehouse in Tianjin, China killed about 50 people and hospitalized hundreds more. The problem was exacerbated by firefighters spraying water on the fire unaware of what the burning substance was, causing further explosions. 

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So how do first responders in Las Vegas know what they are approaching when it comes to hazardous material?

By law, trucks carrying hazardous material are supposed to have triangular placards identifying nine different categories of waste.

These identifying placards allow the Nevada Highway Patrol and federal transportation officials to check cargo, driver and carrying permits. If these agencies sense a problem or find transgressions that could lead to a misidentification of material, the shipper could be held responsible. 




Richard Brenner, hazardous material coordinator, Clark County Fire Department; Vince Dinglasan, commercial enforcement, Nevada Highway Patrol; Gary Foster, southern command, Nevada Highway Patrol 


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