Acid Spills into ME Wetlands

Wednesday, February 3, 2016 @ 12:02 PM gHale

Almost 600 gallons of a sodium hydroxide, or lye, solution spilled from the Savage Safe Handling facility in Auburn, ME, into surrounding wetlands Friday night, officials said.

Auburn firefighters got the call to the 200-acre rail yard and manufacturing site at 5 p.m. to assess the spill, Battalion Chief Scott Hunter said.

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“Originally, [the sodium hydroxide] had gone into a container on a rail car, where there’s a pit that, should that happen, it should contain it, but the plug to seal that container off was not in place, and it did drain from that pit into a wetland area,” Hunter said.

Sodium hydroxide, also known as lye or caustic soda, can cause burns to eyes, skin and the respiratory system, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

“It’s very corrosive,” Hunter said. “If it gets on you, it will eat your flesh off … They do have quite a few chemicals out there that are really bad. Fortunately, this one, as long as you don’t touch it, is fairly safe.”

The spill ended up confined to a wetland area, and firefighters controlled access to that area to prevent any injuries from happening.

David Madore, spokesman for the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), said the 50 percent sodium hydroxide solution ended up “neutralized” with muriatic acid, and DEP would return to the spill site for follow-up work and additional monitoring.

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