Home Hot Wash THMG163 – Hot Wash: Acid Spill

THMG163 – Hot Wash: Acid Spill


In this hot wash episode, Bob and Mike explore a listener-submitted acid spill incident. They learned a lot from reviewing this event, and Bob even changed his outlook on mitigation.

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Complete Show Notes

11:20 The Situation

  • Dispatched to a spill on a roadway in a large, metropolitan area
  • There was a 55-gallon metal drum with no lid that had two plastic bags inside
  • There was also a 5-gallon spackle bucket (didn’t have spackle inside, though)
  • There was a lot of viscous, yellowish-greenish liquid on the ground – looked like phlegm
  • Whole scene is 10 feet wide by 3 feet deep in a little pool against the curb

17:00 Arriving On-Scene

  • Threw pH paper into the spilled liquid – it immediately turned red, which means it’s acidic
  • None of their other meters were going off, though
  • Went into a hazmat huddle to figure out how to proceed
  • Material had already been cleaned up and was inside the bags in the drum – ready to be concluded
  • Decided to call us when the engine company opened up their line to wash it down and noticed a vigorously exothermic, off-gassing reaction

25:35 Devising a Game Plan

  • Overpack to get spill under control – trying to mitigate what’s on the street
  • Senior guy felt they shouldn’t put it in a drum because they’re not sure what it is and it might explode
  • Nothing guaranteeing that the stuff on the street is the same stuff in the barrel
  • Temperature wasn’t an issue
  • Senior guy wanted to run substance through Haz Cat

29:40 Making Decisions

  • Team was in bunker gear and SCBA since they knew they were dealing with something acidic
  • However, someone pointed out that the pH paper might have been triggered before they even got off the rig
  • Hot zone was very small (10 foot radius), which was also a factor
  • Decided to stick with bunker gear because they didn’t know the chemical-physical properties of the substance

40:30 Mitigation

  • We’ve identified the incident action plan – decided to clean the substance up and overpack it
  • We’ll wear the proper gloves, so we don’t need to be concerned about personal decontamination
  • Someone identifies it as muriatic acid from 10 feet away – said he just used the same stuff to clean brickwork
  • Grabbed a compliant absorbent material to pick up some of the acid so they could test it
  • Acid solidified the pad into a block of plastic when they picked it up – this was a big clue that they were moving in the right direction
  • At this point, they figured it was safe to transport the acid in a steel drum as long as it was double bagged
  • Ultimately determined that the bucket had simply fallen off the back of a truck and spilled onto the roadway

49:10 Takeaways When We Make Mistakes

  • Don’t be afraid to admit your mistakes – people respect you for doing this and it helps everyone learn
  • You have to come onto the scene with a presupposition – have to start with some kind of plan
  • Don’t dig into your position or fall prey to confirmation bias – this can cause you to miss big clues
  • Constantly back-test all of your assumptions – look for your hypothesis to fail
  • Don’t get attached to an idea, because you will be disappointed – always be thinking of new ideas

Have a question? Send an email to feedback@thehazmatguys.com or leave a message on our Haz Mat Guys comment hotline: 843-628-1484

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