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Toxic Chemical Spill Kills One; Some 1,000 Evacuated

April 14, 1987

NORTH SALT LAKE, Utah (AP) _ Some 2,000 gallons of a toxic chemical spilled from a ruptured pipe Tuesday and the fumes killed one man, injured six and forced evacuation of about 1,000 people from an industrial park, officials said.

Crews from seven local and state agencies were ″just working down there feverishly″ to contain the spill, said Davis County Sheriff’s Capt. Bud Cox. Crews also worked to stop the chemical from eating through a warehouse’s concrete floor and plugged drains to keep it out of sewers, officials said.

Thirty businesses and four homes in a two-square-mile area were evacuated, said police Sgt. Paul Arnold.

The spill shortly before 7 a.m. at Hodson Laboratories Inc. involved trichloroethane, a solvent used in liquid resins.

Mayor DeWayne Simmons said there was no evidence any of the chemical had seeped into the sewer system, as officials at first feared, although an unknown number of gallons ran out of the building to the pavement, where crews wearing protective clothing and breathing devices covered it with foam and sand.

The dead man was identified by company officials as chief of manufacturing Lee Hodson, 37, son of company owner Val Hodson. The younger Hodson had gone to the plant to accept a shipment of the chemical.

An elbow joint in a pipe used to transfer the chemical from one tank to another broke, spewing the chemical onto the floor of a company warehouse, said Owen Hogle, executive vice president.

″Rather than follow procedure and evacuate immediately, or put on breathing gear, he tried to turn off the valve. He was immediately overcome by fumes and collapsed in the solvent,″ Hogle said. ″He was worried about losing 25 gallons of material. He was very loyal to the company.″

Hodson was pronounced dead at the scene after a paramedic dragged the body from the building, one of about 30 businesses in the North Salt Lake Industrial Park some 10 miles north of Salt Lake City.

Other chemicals were removed from the building so they would not mix with the spilled chemical.

″If we have any mixing of the spilled chemical with any of the other chemicals in that building, we could have a problem on our hands,″ said South Davis County Fire Chief Brent Argyle.

Where the chemical was eating through the concrete floor, crews covered it with foam prior to adding a dirt-like absorbant, Argyle said. Once that was done, in an estimated eight to 10 hours, the mixture would be sealed in containers and removed, he said.

Lorin Larson of the state Office of Emergency Management said crews clogged the building’s drains to prevent further leakage.

Police Chief Val Wilson set the number of evacuees at 1,000. Authorities said many of the evacuees were people who were turned away when they arrived at the industrial park for work.

At first, authorities closed off a one-mile-radius area around the plant, but expanded it briefly when light winds kept shifting.

Hogle said the chemical, used in liquid resins that seal concrete, ″is not considered a solvent which requires special handling.″ However, he said exposure to a large amount quickly burns the lining of the lungs and the nervous system collapses.

The six injured, including a policeman and two paramedics, were released after treatment for nausea and respiratory complaints at Lakeview Hospital in Bountiful, said spokeswoman Janeece Stock.

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