The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

August 23, 2013

Industry spill contained

DEP: ‘Minimal’ impact on river

By Melissa Klaric
Herald Staff Writer

WHEATLAND — A sulfuric acid solution spilled from a tank at Wheatland Tube Co. early Thursday and flowed into a ditch that leads to the Shenango River.

Authorities said there were no injuries and that the spill was contained shortly after the sun came up.

Tim Feeney, general manager of Wheatland Tube, said a 20,000-gallon tank ruptured, spilling out a solution of 10 percent sulfuric acid and 90 percent water. The chemical is used to clean pipe before it is galvanized, he said.

The acid solution flowed south out of the Council Avenue plant in Wheatland and into a storm drain to a ditch that feeds a tributary of the river, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection.

DEP said it could not determine how much acid ended up in the ditch, but the agency reported seeing dead fish at the point where the tributary meets the river.

“It was surmised that the dead fish were from the tributary and washed into the Shenango River, and the spill had minimal impact on the Shenango River,” DEP said in a report Thursday.

Feeney said only 2,000 gallons of the solution left the company’s property.

He said his team immediately enacted its emergency recovery plans upon discovering the spill at 2:25 a.m.

“They started to put in dikes and dammed up the storm drain and the ditch to contain the fluid,” Feeney said.

“We plan for these types of events,” Feeney said. “We’re following our playbook.”

Vacuum trucks were brought in and sucked up spill materials for the biggest part of the work day and lime was applied for neutralization.

A DEP team arrived at the plant within an hour of the spill and left around 7 a.m., declaring the clean-up effort to be “ongoing, but under control.”

The county Emergency Management Agency and state Fish and Boat Commission also evaluated the site.

The commission said it would not comment on the spill because of the ongoing investigation.

The Shenango River Watchers is pleased with how the spill is being handled, said Jennifer Bararak, a founder and board member.

“We were told that the quality of the river was not affected,” Barbarak said. “We don’t believe there will be any residual damage.”

She said the River Watchers have worked closely with the DEP in the past and trust their ruling.

“It was contained very quickly – had it not been, it could’ve been a lot worse,” Barbarak said.

She said Wheatland Tube took immediate measures to make sure the river is kept clean.

Feeney said internal measures will also be taken to prevent this type of accident in the future.

“We want to determine what made the tank fail,” Feeney said, adding that improvements would then be made.

The DEP plans to follow up on the spill with a review of Wheatland Tube’s waste-handling and water-discharge procedures.