The closure of the Delaware Memorial Bridge lead to a longer than expected Thanksgiving holiday drive home for some on Sunday.
A leak of the highly-flammable, ethylene oxide, from a chemical plant that sits next to the northern span of the Delaware Memorial Bridge, forced an emergency shutdown of both spans of the bridge just as families were returning home from the holiday weekend, according to authorities.
4:16 – Monday, November 25, 2018 Firefighters from the Holliway Terrace Fire Company dispatched to Croda Inc at 315 Cherry Lane in New Castle for reports of a commercial structure fire.
4:20 – Upon arrival, the incident commander reported that there was a small ethylene oxide leak from the new system and upgraded the incident to a box alarm and ordered all incoming crews to stage on Cherry Lane.
Within a few minutes, Command notified dispatch that the right two northern lanes of the Delaware Memorial Bridge would need to be closed due to the incident.
After accessing the scene Command reported that the deluge system was in operation and was keeping the vapors down.
4:55 – Command reported that the leak had just gotten worse and ordered both spans of the bridge closed. Crews were moving back to the main gate area.
Command ordered the train tracks that run near the Croda plant shut down.
11:13 – Authorities placed the incident under control and reopened the bridge.
Ethylene oxide (EtO) is produced in large volumes and is primarily used as an intermediate in the production of several industrial chemicals, the most notable of which is ethylene glycol. It is also used as a fumigant in certain agricultural products and as a sterilant for medical equipment and supplies, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Delaware River and Bay Authority (DRBA) Spokesman James Salmon said: “both spans of the bridge closed due to a chemical gas leak at the production plant next to the northbound span on the Delaware side of the river.”
All traffic is being diverted to crossings north of the bridge said Salmon.
During the bridge shut down, DRBA authorities told First State Update that they were waiting for Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) to give them the okay to reopen the bridge.
David Carpenter Jr., the Coordinator of Emergency Management for New Castle County, said that the bridge was closed due to vapor plume.
Carpenter said that no evacuations have been ordered and that a reverse 911 call asked residents to shelter in place.
The closure of the bridge forced drivers on both sides of the Delaware River to find alternate routes to get home. Many headed north to the Commodore Barry Bridge to get across the water.