ROSWELL, N.M. (KRQE) - Evacuations from a chemical spill are over, but a section of the U.S. Highway 285 Relief Route north of Roswell likely will be closed until at least Tuesday.
The New Mexico Department of Transportation reports cleanup of the sodium hydroxide solution is underway and that soil needs to be treated or removed.
The crisis began about 1 p.m. Friday when a tractor-trailer rig hauling the chemical rolled over and spilled some of the material while negotiating the off-ramp from southbound U.S. 285 to the relief route that also carries U.S. Highway 70 around the northwestern side of Roswell.
NMDOT maintenance staff covered the spill with dirt and tarps to protect it from rain, which could release a cloud of toxic gas. During the evening a light rain fell on the site without causing further damage. Sodium hydroxide is also known as lye and caustic soda.
Residents within a one-mile radius were evacuated with as many as 300 people expected at the American Red Cross shelter set up in the gym on the Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell campus. It's not known how many evacuees used the shelter.
The truck driver was not injured. Early Saturday authorities said some people did get medical treatment at the hospital although details were not available.
The off-ramp remains closed, but the relief route is open, a DOT spokesperson said. Southbound traffic can access the relief route by essentially making a U-turn within the interchange by using the exits to and from U.S. Highway 70.
An alternate would be to continue south and turn west on Pine Lodge Road to reach the relief route.
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