Chemical spill in West Chester result of ‘distracted’ worker
Eric Schwartzberg Staff Writer
1:25 p.m Thursday, Oct. 20, 2016 West Chester & Liberty Twp
UPDATE @ 1:10 p.m. Oct. 20:
West Chester Fire Chief Rick Prinz said the 60,000 pounds of recycled lime that caused an evacuation of area businesses was the result of worker error.
SES is an environmental clean-up company that goes from contract to contract picking up waste water and bringing it back to its facility, where it pours it into a “very large trench,” Prinz said.
“They slowly mix lime into it to help neutralize that water and slowly make it a kind of a slurry, more of a solid, so they can put it into a truck and transport it to Rumpke for disposal,” he said. “In this particular instance, the driver of this truck that was holding the lime was dumping the lime into the pit and was distracted for whatever reason, I don’t know, but then inadvertently dumped 60,000 pounds all at one time instead of the small amount that they normally do.”
The “slightly alkolotic” substance is a danger in the powdered form, as it exists in bulk, Prinz said. When dumped in bulk, the substance can become an irritant to a person’s eyes, respiratory tract and skin.
“What happens when it hits the atmosphere and in contact with the ground, it reacts with the moisture in the air and on the ground and it starts a heating process, which gives off steam,” he said.
That’s precisely around 4:48 p.m when emergency dispatchers received a call about “a chemical smell in the air with a cloud.”
“We had initial concerns that the cloud itself could be acidic, that’s why we initially had a shelter-in-place message put out because we wanted to protect those around the area to stay inside so they’re not breathing this steam in,” he said.
Prinz said three people self-reported to the hospital that they developed “some throat irritation” after driving or walking through the cloud.
SES cleaned up its own spill, recovering the lime to use it in its process, Prinz said.
However, the West Chester Fire Department had to intervene, because the substance could continue to give off steam for up to two weeks after the spill based on the amount of product spilled, he said. Instead, after the initial “protect in place” order, the fire department issued a reverse 911 evacuation of area businesses as preventative measure and went from business to business as an extra precaution. It then deluged the pile of lime for about 40 minutes with “copious amounts of water” to expedite the steaming process.
“Later on into the incident when we were able to measure the PH of the steam, we found out that the steam thankfully was neutral, so it was not alkolotic, but we still had concerns that if you were in the cloud that you could develop eye, nose, throat irritations,” Prinz said.
The affected area was from Duff Drive to International, from International to East Crescentville Road, from East Crescentville Road to Ohio 747 and from Ohio 747 back to Duff Drive. The evacuated area consisted of Joseph James Drive, Commerce Park and a portion of Duff Drive.
The fire department cleared the scene at 10:49 p.m., he said.
Anyone who experiences eye, throat or skin irritation as a result of the incident should seek medical attention, Prinz said.
SES has not yet returned a call from this news outlet seeking comment.
UPDATE @ 9:26 p.m. Oct. 19, 2016:
Barricades have been removed from the roads and fire crews have all left the scene of the chemical spill in West Chester Twp., according to our news crew that was at the scene.
UPDATE @ 6:32 p.m.:
Duff Drive businesses are also being evacuated between Commerce Park to State Route 747, according to the township.
UPDATE @ 6:20 p.m.:
Commerce Park Drive is closed to traffic between Duff and Crescentville due to the chemical spill and clean-up efforts, according to officials.
Businesses on Commerce Drive are being evacuated “for the safety of all involved,” Wilson said.
The West Chester Fire Department is on the scene of a chemical lime spill at a company on Joseph James Drive, off Duff Drive.
The spill at SES has created a dust cloud in the area, according to Barb Wilson, township spokeswoman.
The fire department is encouraging those in the area to remain indoors with windows and doors closed and HVAC systems turned off.
Lime can cause skin and eye irritation and can cause respiratory issues.
This affects properties in the area of south of Muhlhauser to Crescentville, between State Route 747 and International, but anyone in that vicinity should use caution, according to Wilson.
60K pounds of lime spilled in West Chester
Brett Milam , firstname.lastname@example.org 10:21 a.m. EDT October 20, 2016
(Photo: Fox19/Ken Brown)
A chemical spill at an industrial cleaning company prompted West Chester Township officials to give a shelter-in-place advisory for surrounding areas on Wednesday evening.
The spill was cleared and the advisory was lifted just before 9 p.m.
The lime spill at Superior Environmental Solutions occurred just after 6 p.m. on Joseph James Drive, off Duff Dive. The spill created a cloud of dust in the area, said Barbara Wilson, spokeswoman for West Chester.
Wilson said 60,000 pounds of lime spilled within the industrial cleaning company. Due to the spill, the fire department is encouraging those in the area to remain indoors with windows and doors closed and HVAC systems off while awaiting further instruction.
"Lime can cause skin and eye irritation and can cause respiratory issues," Wilson said.
At 6:20 p.m., according to Wilson, Commerce Park Drive was closed to traffic between Duff and Crescentville due to the spill and clean-up efforts. Businesses on Commerce Drive were evacuated.
The thunderstorms Wednesday night affected the spill in that it shifted the wind around 6:38 p.m., Wilson said. That extended the evacuations to businesses on Duff Drive between Commerce Park to Ohio 747.
Most of those businesses, Wilson said, are day operations, so there weren't many people around at the time of the spill. Even so, the West Chester Fire Department went through and made sure people were out of the parking lots.
The fire department is using water on the lime to turn it into steam, Wilson said. It's a process, she said, that should take a couple hours.
By morning, Wilson said, things should be fine when they start up again for the day.
Wilson said there were no injuries reported.
It's unclear at this time whether or not SES will face fines or penalties over the spill.