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Hazmat incident in Keysborough
At approximately 7am on Tuesday 8 October, CFA crews were dispatched to a liquid spill on a road, possibly and acid on Pillars Road, Keysborough.
Upon arrival Springvale Pumper, Dandenong Pumper 2 and Keysborough Pumper-Tanker maintained a safe distance of more than 70m and positioned to the side of the incident (as directly upwind was not possible).
A 20-litre plastic drum of high concentration hydrochloric acid had fallen from a vehicle and ruptured, spilling some of the contents across the road. The reaction of the liquid with air and moisture created a vapour cloud which would be lethal to anyone entering it without respiratory protection.
SSO Bernie Frawley and SSO Daryl Owen assisted Keysborough Captain as the incident controller in establishing a suitable plan to deal with the incident.
Hallam Hazmat and Dandenong Hazmat Detection were responded as the surrounding roads were closed to prevent the public being exposed to the lethal concentrations of the vapour.
MFB Scientific Officer Craig Tonks provided advice on the quantity and application method of soda ash to neutralise the acid. LFF Carew and LFF Radley wearing encapsulated gas suits, applied the soda ash and measured the pH levels. Too much soda ash would render the liquid an alkali and the inability to return it to a neutral substance with the resources available.
Once neutralised to a safe concentration, the damaged drum and remaining contents were placed into a recovery drum, along with some contaminated soil.
Decontamination was conducted using a hose reel and verified safe by checking the PH level on the suits before removal. The pH level of the water runoff was measured to ensure there weren't excessive acid or alkali levels.
While these events are relatively uncommon, it's important not to rush in and potentially make the situation worse. This is an example of a well planned and methodical process to the control of an acid spill using the specialist advice and Hazmat detection equipment and skilled operators.