Chesterton Tribune


Burns Harbor Fire Department contains 1000 gallons of sulfuric acid in Pilot parking lot

Back to Front Page




Burns Harbor firefighters successfully contained a release of 1,000 gallons of sulfuric acid on Tuesday in the parking lot of the Pilot Travel Center at 243 U.S. Highway 20.

The BHFD was dispatched to the scene at 1:30 p.m., Fire Chief Bill Arney told the Chesterton Tribune today, after a trucker hauling 10 500-gallon containers of sulfuric acid reported a leak.

The trucker advised that he’d been on the road, was forced to brake hard, and felt his load shift. He then pulled into the Pilot center to check for any damage to the containers and immediately noticed the acid pouring from the rear of his box truck. “The guy said it looked like a waterfall,” Arney said.

The acid itself was packaged in square plastic “totes” reinforced by a metal framework and intended to be not only stackable but more or less unbreachable. “Ideally, they’re not supposed to puncture,” Arney noted.

Two of them did, however, and a stream of acid was the result, leading from the truck to the back of the Pilot parking lot.

Firefighter used 42 50-pound bags of oil dry—more than a ton of it—as well as “haz-mat booms,” which Arney described as “big absorbent socks,” to contain the acid before it got into a pair of detention ponds at the rear of the property.

Sulfuric acid is a lung irritant, though, and firefighters were forced to wear masks and air tanks for respiratory protection, Arney said. As a precaution, the Pilot itself was evacuated until the BHFD had monitored the air quality in the business and given the all-clear. Employees were then allowed back inside.

For a time too U.S. 20 in front of Pilot was closed to traffic.

Also responding to the scene were a hazardous-materials team from the Porter County Environmental Department and an inspector from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Arney did say that, as a corrosive, the acid caused the asphalt in the parking lot to soften and bubble, until a private contractor retained by the trucking company—Gully Trucking Inc. of Quincy, Ill.—had applied a chemical to neutralize the acid. Under Burns Harbor Town Code, the trucking company is responsible for the cost of the cleanup, Arney added.

The BHFD officially cleared the scene around 3:30 p.m. but personnel were on site until 10:30 p.m.

The Porter Fire Department remained on standby for the BHFD at its own station, PFD Chief Lewis Craig said.



Posted 10/3/2012