Mid-May Precision Castparts acid spill contained
Employees of the Precision Castparts Structurals plant were evacuated from it just after noon on May 15. The facility, officially at 4600 S.E. Harney Drive, is situated along Johnson Creek Boulevard.
Although it's in the Portland portion of the Ardenwald-Johnson Creek neighborhood of Milwaukie, the facility is primarily protected by Clackamas Fire District #1.
"The initial call came in at 12:53 p.m. as a 'hazmat' incident and commercial fire – so we dispatched a full commercial assignment of equipment and firefighters to the plant," Clackamas Fire District #1 Public Information Officer Branden Paxton told THE BEE.
"En route, we learned that a 1,400 gallon tanker had been delivering hydrofluoric and nitric acid when a pipe broke, and caused a chemical leak on the ground," Paxton reported. "About 600 employees were evacuated."
Gresham Fire's Hazmat team also responded to aid the Clackamas Hazmat crew, and Portland Bureau of Environmental Services (BES) dispatched their Rapid Response Team to the incident as well.
Johnson Creek Watershed Council CEO Daniel Newberry, posed a relevant question to THE BEE: "Was this new acid coming into the plant, or acid that had been used?" He explained that acid that had already been used in processing parts could possibly be contaminated with heavy metals.
So THE BEE put the question to Precision Castparts Director of Communications David Dugan, who assured us, "This was newly-arriving acid, which had not 'operated' yet.
"A third-party vendor's tanker had a mechanical failure in the process of delivering the acid," Dugan continued. "This third-party vendor had a crew come out to address the issue." He added that the stormwater treatment system, installed in 2016, had captured any acid not contained near the tanker.
Within a couple of hours, employees were allowed to reenter the plant and resume work.
"In addition to our team, Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (ODEQ) and Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife (ODF&W) were also onsite the day of the incident to monitor Johnson Creek for any potential impacts," BES Public Information Officer Diane Dulken told THE BEE after conferring with their staff.
"Initial indications from our team are that the company's on-site stormwater management system successfully captured and treated the discharge," Dulken said. "We found no initial indication of impacts to the Johnson Creek."
According to ORDEQ officials, the release was apparently the result of a failure of a sampling port on a chamber in the tanker, but investigation into the cause is ongoing. And, according to ORDEQ's assessment, there were no air quality issues.
On, May 16, an ORDEQ Water Quality specialist conducted a site inspection and evaluated the stormwater system at Precision Castparts, and determined there should be no environmental harm, as long as staff followed the established stormwater pollution control plan, as they apparently had.
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