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Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News
Firefighters from Unified Fire Authority in Kearns and Magna don hazmat suits at a spill on I-80 Friday.

MAGNA — Hazardous materials crews from the Unified Fire Authority along with officials from the Utah Department of Transportation and Salt Lake Valley Health Department are trying to figure out how a batch of sulfuric acid ended up on the side of a state road Friday.

A little after 8 a.m., fire crews responded to a 911 call of a possible field fire right off the onramp from state Route 202 to I-80 near Saltair.

The first responding crews saw a plume of smoke but immediately recognized it did not look like smoke from a field fire, said UFA spokesman Wade Phillips. They recognized it as a chemical spill and called a hazmat crew.

That crew used binoculars to confirm it was a chemical spill. When sulfuric acid meets water it releases white plumes of smoke, which crews had originally believed to be a field fire.

Hazmat crews conducted a "Level-A" entry to the field about 8:45 a.m., meaning they were getting into encapsulated suits to get a closer look at what might have burned, Phillips said. He said there were some foaming bubbles on the ground.

The spill started on the shoulder of state Route 202 and spread over a 45-foot by 25-foot-wide area, Phillips said. The hazmat crew took soil samples and determined it was sulfuric acid. Yet, crews are still not sure exactly how it got there. There were no barrels on the ground to indicate it dropped off a truck, Phillips said. Investigators were looking at all possibilities from a spill to an illegal dump.

The plume never posed a large threat to motorists, as there was little wind, Phillips said, so the freeway remained open.