A new 12-member Utah Highway Patrol hazardous-materials response team was announced Monday, in response to concerns over the amount of hazardous materials traveling through the state on freeways and state roads.

Utah Commissioner of Public Safety John T. Nielsen made the announcement at the opening session of the fifth annual International Hazardous Materials Association Conference, being held at Snowbird through Wednesday.He said the UHP troopers who constitute the team have been given nearly 250 hours of training in hazardous materials and now carry about $2,200 worth of special equipment and clothing in their cars.

He said team members, stationed in strategic locations throughout the state, will respond to any hazardous-materials spill or accident and help local law enforcement agencies and fire departments cope with any problems that may occur.

All have been trained in the state's new Hazardous Materials Institute, which has been set up to teach people how to identify hazardous materials and how to manage accidents or incidents involving dangerous chemicals.

Nielsen said some of the biggest threats in Utah include petrochemicals and acids that travel daily through the state. He said nuclear or radioactive materials can also pose a threat.

"In an emergency, these specially trained highway patrolmen will be on the scene to offer backup and experience and other services - not to take command, necessarily, of the situation. At other times, the Hazardous Materials Response Team will assess potential problems and help provide training to local fire and safety agencies," he said.

The team includes its leader, hazardous materials coordinator Nelson Ames, of Summit, Wasatch and Salt Lake counties, and troopers Ricky Carlile, Summit, Wasatch and Morgan; Charles Watkins, Carbon, Emery and Grand; Charles Denney, Box Elder, Cache and Rich; and Kirk Harding, Beaver, Iron, Washington, Juab and Millard counties.

Others on the team are troopers Kevin Mansor, Tooele County; Pat Meanea, Sevier, Sanpete, Wayne, Kane, Piute and Garfield; Mark Millet, Grand and San Juan; Lance Remund, Uintah, Duchesne and Daggett; Fred Schoenfeld, Weber and Davis; William Todd, Tooele and Salt Lake; and Michael Towers, Utah County.

Mansor, who donned the specially designed hazardous materials suit he carries in his car so reporters could see how it looked, said he feels he can win in a hazardous-materials incident.

"Sure, they are bad. Some chemicals are terribly dangerous. But with the proper education, training and equipment, I think we can solve hazardous materials problems and come out without injuries or deaths."