Company that owned tanker responsible for leak responds to evacu - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

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Company that owned tanker responsible for leak responds to evacuation and cleanup

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WEATHERSFIELD TWP., Ohio -

A tanker truck leaking hydrochloric acid was discovered early Monday morning in Weathersfield leading to the evacuation of homes and businesses in a one-mile area.

Hydrochloric acid is flammable and explosive and can also pose serious health risks to those who come into contact with it.

The evacuation lasted for almost four hours and included State Route 422 in Girard and Weathersfield Township, Tibbets-Wick Road, as well as Washington and Jefferson streets.

Weathersfield Firefighters initially thought they were responding to a fire.  However, when they arrived at 1775 North State Street they quickly learned that what appeared to be smoke was actually vapors from a tanker that ultimately leaked 2,500 gallons of hydrochloric acid.

The tanker that was holding 5,000 gallons of the chemical was located behind Predator Trucking just before 7:30 a.m. Monday morning.  It led to the evacuation of 23 homes, several businesses and a total of about 75 people.

Authorities even took several people who didn't have transportation to the Scope Center in Niles until the threat was over.

According to Weathersfield Fire Captain Raymond Knepper, the truck had a tank that was split into two different sections.  The back section was contained and did not leak the chemical from the truck, but the front tank was leaking due to a valve that had been ruptured or rusted away.

As soon as the leak was detected, it was all hands on deck as major roads were shut down and traffic rerouted.

David Rosenberger of Kinsman, at one point, just sat in his car wondering how he was going to get to work and said, "I can't get to work because of the road closure."

Another motorist, Wayne Jones of Hubbard found out there was no way he was getting to work anytime soon.  Jones learned his boss at Patrone Brother's Landscaping and Garden Center helped supply some of the 43 tons of sand to contain the chemical.

"He told me that hydrochloric acid had leaked out of a truck across the street and they were starting to haul sand to Predator Trucking to contain the leak," Jones said.

Jeff Burke, the owner of The Record Connection in the neighboring plaza, said all of the stores in the mini strip mall across the street, except for Dollar General, decided to evacuate for safety reasons.  Burke stayed in his store to get work done.

"I was concerned, but not scared enough to lock the door.  I had work to do.  I did notice a different smell in the air and I had a scratchy throat, so I just came in and turned the air conditioner on in here and stayed inside," Burke said.

At least 75 people were told they could evacuate to the Scope Center in Niles.  A community that felt displaced for four and a half hours for their own safety.

"Because of the flammability of the product that has been released, any kind of a spark; a cigarette being thrown out, or a car backfiring like we just saw can create a real issue for us," Captain Knepper said.

ProFrac Services out of Texas hired Chemtron to clean up the chemical.  The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency was also on the scene to investigate and make sure the cleanup was being done properly.

It's unclear if the company will be cited, but they will be asked to pay for all the manpower used from two hazardous materials teams, at least three fire departments, and police officers from at least two agencies.

"The company is going to end up with a pretty big size bill for this.  It's not going to be cheap," said Captain Knepper.

The entire clean-up took between four and five hours.

After repeated calls to ProFrac in Texas, 21 News did receive a "statement" from the company after 7:00 p.m. Monday:

We have been notified of an issue this morning in Weathersfield concerning a liquid chemical release.  We are currently conducting a full investigation into the issue and gathering more information. However, at this time, clean up is underway, and Trumbull County HazMat has allowed residents to return to their homes. No one in the area is believed to be in any immediate danger.

We appreciate the quick and effective actions of all first-responders, including the local fire department and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. We take safety very seriously, and the safety of our employees, customers and community will always be our number one priority.”

-ProFrac Services

The cleanup was expected to take four to five hours.  It involved removing all of the sand and the dirt that the chemical may have leaked into at the site.

Weathersfield Fire says Predator Trucking only transports the material for ProFrac and is not the owner of the tanker truck involved.

An investigation is also underway by the Ohio EPA.

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