Girard chemical leak at trucking company forces evacuation of two restaurants and 75 people

Trucking company will pay for cleanup of hydrochloric acid

By Ed Runyan


A plume of vapor that looked like smoke alerted authorities about 2,500 gallons of hydrochloric acid had leaked out of a tanker truck at Predator Trucking, 1775 N. State St.

It led to an evacuation of 75 people, including everybody at the nearby McDonald’s and Scenna’s restaurants, plus road-construction workers and people in 23 homes.

Hydrochloric acid is used industrially to process steel and is used in the production of batteries, fireworks and to process sugar. It has a sharp, irritating odor and is highly corrosive, according to the website.

The alert came about 7:20 a.m. Monday. The evacuation lasted four hours, until the hazardous-chemical spill was under control and everyone was allowed to return to their homes and businesses at 11:20 a.m., said Weathersfield Fire Capt. Raymond Knepper.

No one was injured.

The tanker truck, owned by the company Profrac of Fort Worth, Texas, leaked because of a rusty valve, Knepper said.

When a passer-by called 911 about the vapor, the passer-by and firefighters thought it was smoke. When firefighters got a look, they realized it was a chemical vapor.

“As soon as we saw what they had, we backed out,” Knepper said of the crew from the McKinley Heights fire station just up the street from Predator Trucking.

The fire department contacted the Trumbull County Haz-Mat unit, which took over.

Numerous other fire departments also assisted or stood by to assist Weathersfield.

There were some employees working at Predator Trucking when firefighters arrived. They were evacuated. The company was aware of the leak as early as 6 a.m. and used a plastic “kiddie pool” in a failed attempt to contain the leaking fluid, Knepper said.

Officials closed the portion of U.S. Route 422 bounded on the North by Tibbetts-Wick Road.

Knepper said the wind blew the vapor in a northwesterly direction directly along Route 422, but the wind shifted at times and blew the vapor in a more easterly direction.

That put two streets just behind Predator Trucking – Washington and Jefferson – in danger and led to the evacuation of homes on those streets, as well as homes along Tibbetts-Wick.

Joe Russo of Jefferson Street said he was drinking coffee when Weathersfield firefighters knocked on the door and informed him he and his son should evacuate. They did not have a car, so firefighters drove them to the Niles Wellness Center.

The vapor was flammable and explosive, but it was “more of an irritant than anything,” as far as harm it could cause to anyone, Knepper said. The evacuation was done as a precaution.

The Environmental Protection Agency came to the scene to oversee the cleanup, which Profrac will be paying for, Knepper said.

There were 43 tons of sand used to contain the chemical, which will have to be hauled away.

The phone at Predator Trucking was not answered when The Vindicator called late Monday afternoon seeking comment.

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