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Coffee Would Go Great With This Spill

Around 1:00 a.m. today, a semi-truck carrying coffee creamer rolled over on I-10 freeway near downtown Phoenix. This was one of the first news stories reported in the first half-hour of the 5:00 a.m. news. My first thought was, “I wonder if it is plain or flavored?”  Within the next hour, I learned that the creamer was liquid not dry, and the roll-over caused a spill of both diesel fuel and product onto the freeway.

Phoenix Rollover Accident, February 13, 2012, Fox 10 News

Phoenix Rollover Accident, February 13, 2012, Fox 10 News

According to the Department of Public Safety personnel, “The diesel was not as big a problem as initially feared, but the creamer spill stretched for more than 50 yards of the freeway,” said Carrick Cook. Crews not only had to clean up the liquid creamer, they also had to remove the remaining content in the trailer as well as move the trailer out of the way. As crews cleaned, removal of the diesel fuel proved to be less of a challenge than the creamer. [Ref 1]

By now, it’s 7:00 a.m. and I am reaching for my second cup of coffee with 2% milk. So, what is in non-dairy creamy that is making it so difficult to remove from the pavement? The reporters indicated that although most of the product had been removed, there was still a light layer or sheen on the pavement that was slippery and not safe to drive on, and it might take a while to remove it all. In the meantime rush hour traffic is backing up and is being rerouted around this central Phoenix location.

According to LiveStrong.com (Ref 2), the primary ingredients of water with corn syrup solids are listed for a leading non-dairy creamer. Corn syrup solids are essentially cornstarch treated with acids or enzymes. The product also contains trans-fat oil, sodium caseinate, and dipotassium phosphate, mono- and diglycerides. Flavored varieties contain artificial flavor and carrageenan.

All the above add up to lots of syrup (sugar) and oil. Combine this with emulsifying glycerides – mono and di – that somehow escape the trans-fat category, but help oil and water mix better together. I didn’t need to go any further into my research. I have cleaned enough dirty kitchen floors to better understand the “sheen” on the pavement that was stubborn to the removal process.

I suppose there is a place for non-dairy creamers in this world, but for now, I am going to stick with regular or soy milk for my creamer. There is one bit of good news to share about this story – it was flavored creamer – French vanilla – so the area of the spill and the air around it had a really nice smell!!!


  1. “Westbound I-10 Reopens in Phoenix after Semi-truck Rollover Crash,” Jaclyn Schultz and Megan Stewart, The Arizona Republic-12 News Breaking News Team, February 13, 2013, http://www.azcentral.com/community/phoenix/articles/20130213phoenix-crash-tanker-spill-interstate-10-abrk.html
  2. “Ingredients in Coffee-Mate, http://www.livestrong.com/article/402395-ingredients-in-coffee-mate/

About Vi Brown

Vi is principal and CEO of Prophecy Consulting Group, LLC, an Arizona firm that provides business and engineering services to private and public clients. Prior to establishing her consulting practice in 2001, Vi worked with Motorola, Maricopa County Government, Pacific Gas & Electric, CH2M Hill, and Procter & Gamble. As an adjunct faculty member, Vi teaches undergraduate calculus classes and graduate level environmental courses. She is also a professional speaker.


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