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Darnum hazardous materials incident
At approximately 12:45pm yesterday, 26th February, local brigades from Darnum-Ellinbank and Yarragon, along with Warragul Hazmat, responded to a report that chemicals had mixed and had a reaction at milk processing factory in Darnum.
***Story and photos courtesy of Daniel Eshuis, Warragul Fire Brigade***
On arrival, Warragul Captain Paul Tandberg assumed control of the incident. He quickly determined that two chemicals had been inadvertently mixed in a stainless steel vat in one of the chemical handling buildings, producing a toxic and corrosive gas. Onsite staff had already evacuated the area and taken steps to limit access to the area.
Captain Tandberg requested additional resources including Morwell Hazmat, Hallam Hazmat and Traralgon Breathing Apparatus Support due to the nature of the incident and the expected long duration.
Fire-fighter Steve Venville from Warragul Fire Brigade assumed the role of Operations Officer, and was responsible for coordinating all available information and resources to bring the incident to a safe conclusion. He said "A big factor in how well the incident ran was that we took the time to establish the objectives, ensure the safety of people on site (both CFA and site personnel), working with specialists to resolve the incident safely and efficiently, and working as a coordinated team".
Crews were able to utilise a number of onsite resources to get a good picture of what the situation was, without having to send any personnel into the hot zone initially. Using details from the staff onsite who noticed the reaction, on site CCTV, a site chemist, and the CFA Scientific Officer, they were able to develop a number of plans to safely resolve the incident. The Emergency Management Team, led by Captain Tandberg and Fire-fighter Venville, met every 15-20 minutes to discuss progress.
The chemicals were in a vat which proved to be very difficult to decant. Eventually the chemicals were decanted using the good old garden hose syphon: fill the hose with water, dip one end in the liquid to be decanted safely, and hold the other end lower than the liquid, allowing air pressure to move the liquid, albeit slowly.
Hazmat technicians from Hallam monitored the air quality in and around the incident, ensuring that all personnel and public remained safe at all times.
Ambulance Victoria attended for the duration of the incident, monitoring crew welfare. A Health Commander also attended, ensuring that public safety was maintained.
Longwarry Catering attended and provided refreshments and dinner for the more than 60 emergency services and onsite personnel involved in the incident.
Captain Tandberg said "Quick actions from onsite personnel isolated the chemicals to a single vat, preventing the incident from becoming larger than it was. Crews all worked well together to ensure a safe resolution to the incident."
Attending resources included:
Warragul Pumper, Hazmat and FCV
Nilma North Tanker
Moe South MCV
Traralgon Breathing Apparatus Support
District 9 RDO Michael Cherry
District 9 Operations Officer Bill Alards
Baw Baw Shire
EPA and WorkSafe were notified