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Another Leak Hits West Virginia’s Chemical Valley

September 10, 1985

NITRO, W.Va. (AP) _ A railroad tanker leaked poisonous hydrochloric acid for about 30 minutes in the second toxic leak in two days here, and the sixth chemical leak in the area in a month.

No one was evacuated as workers cleaned up Monday’s small spill, which followed a derailment in a Conrail freight yard, officials said.

The site of Monday’s leak is about 20 blocks from Fike Chemical, where poisonous methyl mercaptan leaked Sunday, sending five people to hospitals for evaluation. Three were held overnight and released Monday.

The string of leaks in the ″chemical valley,″ where 13 plants sit along 25 miles of the Kanawha River, began Aug. 11 when a pesticide ingredient leaked at Union Carbide’s Institute plant, sending 135 people to hospitals.

Since then, Union Carbide’s South Charleston plant has had two substantial leaks and Olin Corp. and Fike Chemical each have had one significant release.

A slight amount of chemical leaked in Monday’s incident, said Bryan Deem, the plant manager at FMC Corp.’s plant here. FMC had loaded the chemical onto the car, he said.

″A rupture disc on the car was leaking a bit,″ said Deem. ″It was not really broken, but it was leaking. It’s hard to say (what caused the leak) without inspecting it.″

A rupture disc is a valve designed to give way when pressures exceed a specified level.

The tanker slipped off the tracks at 4:40 p.m. Monday as Conrail crews tried to move it, Deem said. He did not know if the derailment caused the leak, which started around 9 p.m.

FMC crews replaced the rupture disc while the car sat in the Conrail yard, said Deem.

Hydrochloric acid is a strong, highly corrosive substance used in cleaning metals and to help make other substances through chemical reactions.

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