The Utah Highway Patrol is usually the third to know when a hazardous cargo spills: the first is the tanker's driver, and the second is the by-passer who calls the patrol.

The fourth, often enough, is Hatchco.Troopers stationed throughout the state are responsible for coordinating safety and cleanup efforts in their areas, in case of an accident.

Once the call is made, the trooper either contacts local officers to deal with the accident or he'll go there personally. In Salt Lake County, a "hazmat" (hazardous materials) team from the Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County or West Valley City fire departments may respond.

If the accident occurs on a freeway, UHP will be there. The officers are coordinated through the Murray Substation, 320 W. 5560 South.

Trooper Bill Todd, one of the 11 on the UHP Hazardous Materials Response Team, said his four-wheel-drive highway patrol vehicle carries fire-fighting protective clothing, air tanks, special protective clothing and a library system that will help identify materials.

Reference books in the vehicle will let troopers "know what it is we're dealing with and how to deal with it." These inch-thick hazardous-materials tables published by the federal government list hundreds of regulated chemicals.

The vehicle also carries the telephone numbers of contacts who can supply more detailed information.

Usually during a cleanup, "we don't take charge, but we are basically a resource," Todd said.

But in outlying areas, where few trained experts are available, the trooper "may have to don his equipment and go in there and do whatever it takes - turning off the valves, getting the injured off."

After a highway is closed and any injured people are rescued, the cleanup begins.

The premier cleanup firm in this region is the Hatchco Response Team, a division of Jack B. Kelley Co., 643 S. 800 West, Woods Cross. The team cleans up hazardous spills in Utah, Nevada, Wyoming and Idaho.

"Actually, we're a trucking company, and we started the response team to clean up our own spill," said Lee Nix, safety and response director for the team.

That was 20 years ago. As Hatchco became better known, truckers and manufactures began calling on it. "Then we set up the special division, and we almost do this full-time."

Nix estimates Hatchco goes on 25 spills a year in Utah. Some are extremely dangerous, like the cyanide spill on I-15 last year.

The Hatchco response van "has everything we need in it to control or contain a spill and to clean it up. Then we have access to other types of equipment, pump trucks, vacuum trucks."

If acid should spew from a tanker truck, Hatchco experts wearing protective suits and breathing apparatus will build a dike around the acid to contain it, evacuating the area if necessary.

They will check the truck's placard and shipping papers. The placard may merely warn, CORROSIVE, but the shipping papers are supposed to contain detailed records. Also, team members may run tests to make certain they've identified what they're dealing with.

In this hypothetical accident, it turns out to be acid. So they begin pouring in lime to neutralize it.

"Sometimes your neutralizer is also a product that will give body to it. It'll absorb it. If we do need to put something else on it to absorb it, we do."

When the chemical changes to a neutral substance, "you can gather it up and dispose of it at a city dump."

If it's something too dangerous for the city dump, it may be hauled to the U.S. Pollution Control Inc. hazardous-waste landfill at Knolls, Tooele County. Occasionally it must be kept in special double barrels.

"We sometimes ship those back to the shipper because of the expense of delivering products out to USPCI," Nix said.

What if the spiller was some fly-by-night shipping company that doesn't have the money to pay for the cleanup?

"There have been times when they haven't paid us, and we have taken a long time to get payment. I don't know. You just take that chance," Nix said.

Which is ironic. Because chances are the one thing Hatchco doesn't take when cleaning up spills.