::Sulfuric Acid Spill Causes Evacuations
By Elliott West, Raleigh Chronicle News Editor
Friday June 29, 2007
RALEIGH - An accidental spill of sulfuric acid at a Raleigh chemical plant yesterday caused evacuations of three nearby schools for several hours. In addition, local residents were told to stay indoors for part of the day.
The 3,000 gallon acid spill occurred at the Mallinckrodt Chemical facility located at 8801 Capital Boulevard.
The City of Raleigh said that a fire crew from the Raleigh Fire Department's Hazmat Unit responded yesterday morning at 7:30am to the plant when the acid leaked from a tank into a containment basin. Another crew was dispatched to the scene later in the day.
According to the city, the containment basin is a "required safety precaution that is designed to catch any leaks from tanks containing hazardous materials."
Initially, a statement was issued by Division Chief Frank Warner with the Fire Department saying that the leak was "confined to the company's property and poses no threat to the general public."
However, later in the day, officials were concerned that potential rains could have a chemical interaction with the sulfuric acid, releasing a gas.
Due to those concerns, the city later asked residents who lived within a half mile radius of Mallinckrodt Chemicals including the Riverhaven Apartments complex to stay inside their homes.
In addition, according to a live report from WRAL-TV5 at the time, the Durant Road Elementary School, Durant Road Middle School and the Neuse Baptist Church Preschool were all evacuated as a precaution.
When sulfuric acid comes into contact with water, it can cause the acid to boil and possibly become a gas cloud.
Sulfuric acid is not toxic by itself and is a very common industrial chemical. However, it is highly corrosive and the material in gas form can cause problems with the lungs, eyes, and teeth. Sulfuric acid in liquid form can cause severe burns since it also causes an exothermal chemical reaction with water in the human body.
In addition, if the acid comes into contact with other materials such as certain metals, it could also then release a potentially toxic gas or even hydrogen, which can be explosive.
Late in the day on Thursday, the Raleigh Fire Department Haz Mat units were able to clean up the spill and the city advised local residents that it was safe once again for them to go outdoors in the area. ::