CINCINNATI - They shoveled. They scrubbed. They used sand and delivered blasts from high-pressure water hoses. They tried solvents.
But it wasn't until highway crews used Dawn dishwashing liquid that they were able to remove a 6,700-gallon spill of animal fat that had kept a stretch of interstate highway closed for 3 1/2 days.
It was a public-relations windfall for Cincinnati's Procter & Gamble, maker of Dawn.
The company donated 3 1/2 tons of the dishwashing liquid, $12,000 worth at retail prices, to clean up the five-acre mess over the weekend.
"We're delighted it worked," P&G spokesman Damon Jones said. "This is, by far, the most extreme case of grease we've dealt with."
P&G has no plans to revamp its advertising to note Dawn's effectiveness on highway concrete. But the incident has given rise to wisecracks around headquarters such as "Open up the freeway by the crack of Dawn."
The spill happened when a tanker truck overturned during morning rush-hour traffic Thursday on Interstate 74 at its junction with Interstate 75. The cargo of animal fat, bound for a Cincinnati plant to be included in fabric softeners, spilled from the heated tanker. It flowed into the highway's grooves and pores, then cooled and congealed.
Firefighters, police, environmental consultants and regulators, and a host of companies offering cleaning products became part of the round-the-clock effort. It ended when the highway - now a low-fat artery - passed skid tests. The ramps to I-75 were reopened Sunday night.
Officials wanted to make sure the fat was washed out of the porous concrete so it won't resurface when the summer heat returns.
Tom Klug, a state Transportation Department supervisor who oversaw the cleanup, said the cost could approach $500,000. It will be billed to Paul Marcotte Farms of Momence, Ill., the operator of the truck.
The driver was hospitalized for a day and charged with failure to control his truck.