There was a hazardous materials release Friday from a railcar at Kemira Water Solutions in Spokane, WA, officials said.
Just before 3 p.m., fire officials got the call that an unknown red fluid was leaking from a railcar on the Union Pacific spur line, said officials from Spokane Valley Fire Department (SVFD). A drive-by caller noticed a visible stream of red liquid leaking from a railcar.
SVFD Engine 5 arrived first on scene and witnessed a red liquid leaking from a railcar under pressure, and began requesting a full hazardous materials response which included units from Spokane Fire Department’s HazMat team.
The Engine 5 officer made contact with a Kemira official, who said the product was ferric chloride, and had been leaking for approximate 30 minutes.
Ferric chloride is harmful, highly corrosive and acidic. The anhydrous material is a powerful dehydrating agent. Although reports of poisoning in humans are rare, ingestion of ferric chloride can result in serious morbidity and mortality.
The Kemira employee said during a routine transfer of the product, a valve or pipe cracked. The leak was not immediately stopped by employees because of the method of transfer used. The normal procedure is to pressurize the tank with air and allow the fluid to move under pressure.
When the valve broke, the increased pressure forced the fluid out the hole, instead of through the lines to a holding tank. There was 6,500 gallons of product on the ground and it appeared to responders that the spill was contained in a terrain sump and posed no further danger.
There was no vapor or downwind hazards from the spill, despite strong winds.
The Kemira employee also told SVFD that company spill protocols were initiated including notifying a private HazMat clean up team, who had arrived prior to the fire department response.
After the investigation and product identification, the incident was released to Kemira for private cleanup. The Department of Ecology was notified for follow-up, due to the size of the spill.
There were no firefighter injuries reported and Sullivan Road remained open throughout the incident. The only impact to commerce or traffic was the closure of the adjacent Union Pacific line for three hours.