Truck Spills 42,000 Pounds of Beer on West Virginia Highway

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The beer cans were scattered around the highway. Brendon Thorne/Getty Images

On Tuesday, a tractor trailer in West Virginia accidentally spilled thousands of beer cans on the highway after the driver lost control of the vehicle and crashed into a utility pole, causing it to overturn. No one was seriously injured in the crash, but what will happen to all those beer cans remains unclear.

The incident occurred on State Route 3, just outside of Hamlin, West Virginia, and only the one vehicle was involved, UPI reported. A man and a woman were inside the truck at the time of the accident and were treated at the local hospital for minor injuries.

The road may have fared worse than the truck passengers. According to WVNSTV, the truck was carrying a 42,000-pound load and stocked with only beer cans. This load spilled onto the road and surrounding area. The road was shut down for a short time as emergency crew attempted to address the situation.

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The beer and cans spilled on the road and into the surrounding foliage, and will likely cause lasting damage on the contaminated plant life. Alcohol normally stunts the growth of plants and when ethanol is applied to flowers, depending on the concentration, the plants will either grow considerably more slowly or die completely. However, the alcohol seems to affect only stem and leaf growth, leaving the blossom unaltered, according to a 2006 study from Cornell University.

Gardeners can use the effects of alcohol to their advantage. Adding small amounts of alcohol to plants may to prevent them from growing too large. The Cornell study, which focused on paperwhites, a type of flowering plant, showed just that. 

"When the liquor is properly used, the paperwhites we tested were stunted by 30 to 50 percent, but their flowers were as large, fragrant and long-lasting as usual," said William Miller, a professor of horticulture at Cornell University and co-author of the study, in a statement. On this occasion, however, the amount of alcohol is seeping into the surrounding flora cannot be controlled. 

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As for the cans themselves, they will also likely do a number on the environment. Aluminum is not biodegradable—it cannot be naturally broken down into natural components such as carbon and water. According to Green Home, a single can may take several hundred years to decompose completely. It could be worse, however: plastic bottles can take around 5,000 years to completely decompose.

Even before these cans make it to a landfill, or in this case the side of a road, aluminum is stressful on the environment. Aluminum production uses large amounts of water and creates air, water, and soil pollution.

As for this crash, it's not clear exactly what will become of the beer and their cans. But it’s likely that there will be more than a few somewhat drier New Year's Eve parties this weekend as a result of this loss.