July 19, 2024

Toxic chemical spill at Thatcher caused by nitric acid reaction

A photo from What's Happening in Buckeye, AZ Facebook Page

Buckeye Police Department released new details on the Friday toxic chemical spill at Thatcher Company of Arizona.

According to police, a Thatcher employee was filling a vehicle with nitric acid around 4:30 p.m. when the substance leaked into a retention basin. The acid came in contact with an "unknown" metal. That caused the gaseous reaction, seen as an orange cloud. Two-hundred gallons of the substance leaked before employees contained it.

About half an hour later, BPD instructed residents to shelter in place. People with respiratory issues were told to go to Coyote Library.

Spill sparks health concerns

The department lifted the shelter-in-place order at 7 p.m. No injuries were reported, according to BPD, however, residents expressed concern on social media regarding the long-term effects of this incident.

"No illnesses have been reported just yet, but what are the side effects of this leak?" commented Berenice Cordova on BPD's Facebook page.

"I was driving down Broadway going to Verrado when this happened and there was a weird taste in the air," wrote Abby Lee. "I feel okay so far, but just for information purposes, can there be any underlying effects this could have on a person?" 

According to the CDC's National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, nitric acid is a hazardous “colorless liquid with yellow or red fumes with an acrid odor.” It is used commonly in the manufacturing of fertilizers, dyes and explosives. Nitric acid is highly corrosive and is more harmful depending on the level of exposure, dose and duration. It can cause irritation to the eyes, skin and mucous membrane. Delayed conditions that may be related to nitric acid exposure include pulmonary edema, pneumonitis, bronchitis and dental erosion.

Nothing left to investigate

Buckeye Fire and Medical Rescue Department spokesman Nic Cunningham said this morning there is no new information about the spill. BPD is not involved in any ongoing investigation, according to Public Information Officer Carissa Planalp. Maricopa County Emergency Management was not activated for the incident, though the department is monitoring it. 

The Environmental Protection Agency Region 9 Public Information Officer Joshua Alexander said there is no investigation from his department.

Thatcher did not return calls from InBuckeye about the chemical spill as of this morning.

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