A major accident plan was activated after four 40 gallon barrels fell from the articulated truck onto the main N28 road between Ringaskiddy and Carrigaline in Co Cork at 10.15am.
There were unconfirmed reports last night that the truck, which was coming from The Carbon Group plant in Ringaskiddy, had to swerve and brake suddenly to avoid a car just off the Shannon Park roundabout. It is understood cables designed to hold the barrels in place broke loose.
Gardaí, fire brigade crews from Cork city, Carrigaline and Crosshaven, and environmental officials from Cork County Council rushed to the scene and cordoned off a large area.
Fire brigade crews, dressed in special chemical suits, sprayed the road with soda ash to neutralise the acid, which, according to fire officers, was 96% concentrated. Nobody was reported injured.
"Personnel from our environment department visited the scene to check out if any of the acid got into the water table, but as it was a dry day we believe we were lucky," a council spokeswoman said.
A spokesman for the HSA said inspectors were on the scene quickly and will carry out a full investigation into the circumstances of the accident.
The Environmental Protection Agency said they were liaising with the local authority who have overall responsibility for the management of the incident.
Traffic was diverted for several hours southbound traffic through Rafeen and northbound traffic through a small country road in Ballinrea.
Cork Harbour Alliance for a Safe Environment (CHASE), who are fighting plans for a toxic waste incinerator in Ringaskiddy, said the incident highlighted their fears about the possibility of up to 80 trucks carrying toxic waste to the proposed incinerator on the same road every day.
"The current emergency services, health and safety resources, and infrastructure network are not resourced to cope with the risk involved with the transport of this volume of hazardous waste to Ringaskiddy," a spokesperson said.
CHASE chairperson Mary O'Leary also called for improved policing of chemical transport companies.
"Accidents will happen but we have all these rules about how hazardous materials should be transported and they are not being implemented," she said.
Fine Gael Cllr Tim Lombard called on the National Roads Authority to fast-track the 100m N28 improvement project to safeguard public health in the event of a major emergency.
IBEC, which represents the Pharachem industry, declined to comment on the incident until more details become available.
"But our members fully support and adhere to the regulations governing the transport of hazardous chemicals," a spokesman said.
Braham Brennan, the chairman of Ringaskiddy and District Residents Association, said he would be seeking a full report on the incident from the county council.
"This is something we have been predicting and talking about for years and years but nobody is listening to us," the retired firefighter said.