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Sulfuric acid leak shuts down West Virginia silica plant

May 27, 2014
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A sulfuric acid leak at a West Virginia silica plant caused a shutdown of the facility on May 13, according to information provided by the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). Officials with the DEP's Hazardous Waste group were sent on site to evaluate the situation and commence cleanup operations, media reports said.

The incident occurred at the U.S. Silica plant in Berkeley Springs, when an employee at the facility tried to pour sulfuric acid from a 6,000-gallon tank into a smaller container. While transferring the acid, the worker failed to disconnect a hose and walked away from the vessel, damaging the connections, company spokesperson Michael Lawson told the Morgan Messenger.

By damaging the connection, the employee also affected pipes linking to other tanks, which led to further leaks. DEP environmental inspector specialist John Killian said that about 3,000 pounds of caustic soda leaked, as well as some amount of petroleum sulfonate. The amount of sulfuric acid spilled was not confirmed, but it was estimated at about 635 gallons, or 5,000 pounds.

Environmental Products & Services, a private remediation company, was hired to manage cleanup works under the supervision of DEP officials. Emergency response teams used sand to capture the spilled chemicals, along with lime and soda ash that neutralized the hazardous materials. These will have to be cleaned up and disposed of properly, Killian said.

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