Potash contains spills

Published 12:14 am Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Two chemical spills reported at PotashCorp Aurora over weekend

Two chemical spills were reported at PotashCorp Aurora this weekend but the company has reported no injuries and reports that the chemicals were contained within the plant site.

The cause of both is under investigation, according to company spokesman Ray McKeithan.

The first spill, of 3,412 gallons methyl isobutyl ketone, was reported to the National Response Center at about 11:40 a.m. Saturday, according to McKeithan.

There were no injuries reported with the spill, he said.

A second spill, of 89,760 gallons of phosphoric acid, was reported to the National Response Center at about 8 a.m. on Sunday, McKeithan said.

No injuries were reported with that spill, he said.

The National Response Center is the sole national point of contact for reporting all oil, chemical, radiological, biological and other such spills into the environment anywhere in the United States and its territories. The center also takes terrorist and suspicious activity reports and reports of maritime security breaches.

The phosphoric acid spill was contained within the industrial portion of the PotashCorp Aurora plant site, according to Al Hodge, a supervisor with the N.C. Division of Water Quality’s regional office in Washington.

That entire area drains into a series of points allowing the water to be used in the industrial process or to be treated and discharged with National Pollution Discharge Elimination System limits, he said.

Hodge said the methyl isobutyl ketone spill was “cleaned up to our standards.”

Methyl isobutyl ketone is used as a solvent for gums, resins, paints, varnishes, lacquers and nitrocellulose, according to information provided with the Environmental Protection Agency. Short-term exposure to methyl isobutyl ketone may irritate the eyes and mucous membranes, and cause weakness, headache, nausea, lightheadedness, vomiting and dizziness in humans.

Most of the phosphoric acid produced in the country is used in the production of agricultural fertilizers, with the remainder being used for insecticide production and cattle feed additives, among other uses. Food-grade phosphoric acid is also used as an agent to give some soft drinks their tangy flavor.