It took most of the day Friday for crews to clean up and reopen U.S. Highway 27 after a pair of trucks hauling waste from the Moccasin Bend sewage treatment plant lost their loads and spread the stinky stuff along several miles of northbound lanes.
Traffic lanes were closed near Dayton Boulevard and vehicles diverted to the Highway 153 exit while workers with Marion Environmental used front-end loaders, shovels and hoses to scoop up and wash away the dried and treated waste.
The Chattanooga Fire Department said city firefighters were called in to assist the Tennessee Department of Transportation in determining what to do with the material. Fire department spokesman Bruce Garner said Denali called in Marion Environmental for the cleanup.
Justin Holland, Chattanooga public works director, said a private company, Denali Water Solutions, contracts with the city to haul away the waste, which is sold and used as fertilizer.
He referred questions to Denali representative Nick Thompson, who did not return calls seeking comment.
Though the gross-out factor is high, Holland said, the spill represented no danger to the public.
"This is material that would be land-applied on farms as agricultural fertilizer," Holland said. "There's a lot of treatment that goes into this before it goes on the truck."
The trucks were hauling the loads to a landfill in Dayton, Tennessee, where it would be sold to farmers.
It wasn't clear how both trucks managed to lose their loads. The Tennessee Highway Patrol was handling the incident and WRCB-Channel 3 reported the drivers were cited for having unstable loads.
Holland said crews wanted to get the mess contained to avoid runoff issues.
"Any type of fertilizer or chemical in a concentrated form would be an environmental issue if it were to get into the storm drains," Holland said.
Eric Ward, communications director for the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, said the agency was monitoring the situation Friday and in close communication with local and state authorities at the scene.
Asked whether TDEC would investigate how the accident happened and whether the city or the contractor could face penalties, Ward said it was "premature at this time to speculate" on that.