Hydrochloric acid spill shuts down Business U.S. 59

Sept. 9, 2011 at 4:09 a.m.

A hydrochloric acid spill at Halliburton Energy Services shut down almost three-and-a-half miles of U.S. 59 Business for 16 hours Thursday and Friday.

A Halliburton employee saw a leak in a 13,000-gallon, above-ground storage tank about 10:45 p.m. Thursday, prompting the evacuation of the Halliburton property at 101 Holt Road.

No one was injured and nearby residents were not deemed to be in immediate danger.

By 11 p.m. Thursday, the fire department had cordoned off about a quarter-mile radius around the spill, knowing they were dealing with a toxic substance, Victoria Fire Department Battalion Chief Shannon Martin said Friday morning.

It was "very obvious due to the vapor cloud that the hydrochloric acid produced," he said.

The leak was caused by a failure with a manway hatch, which allows people to enter the tank, Martin said.

The storage tank, which was about 100 feet from the highway, was holding 11,500 gallons of acid at the time of the leak. The spill was contained within barriers set up by Halliburton, but vapors were exposed to the open air.

Martin said the fire department took all precautions necessary to deal with a leak he said he's never seen to this degree.

"Nobody was at risk in the area," he said.

Battalion Chief Roger Hempel, who took over the scene later Friday morning, said officials issued a reverse 911 alert to notify nearby residents of the spill.

One resident, who lives on Hartman Road and can see Halliburton from her property, said she was concerned businesses were evacuating, but she had not been given any information.

"It really concerned me that they didn't feel it was important to come tell people at midnight there's an acid spill in the area," Diana Pennington, 53, said.

Victoria County Emergency Management Coordinator Jeb Lacey reiterated that residents were not in danger, but said crews were hoping to have as few people as possible in the area, should circumstances change and an evacuation become necessary.

Pennington said a deputy from the Sheriff's Office escorted her home about 1 a.m., telling her she was out of danger because the wind was blowing vapors away from her home.

Though winds were mostly calm, the product was putting off gas for a good while throughout the night," Hempel said.

Crews were on higher alert Friday, when the wind and heat picked up, Hempel said.

The Houston company contracted by Halliburton to clean up the spill, Garner Environmental Services, was testing the air to ensure safety, Hempel said.

At 3 p.m. Friday, the scene was cleaned up, and the highway was reopened.

All commercial flights in and out of the Victoria Regional Airport were canceled until about 1:30 p.m., and classes at Faith Academy's senior campus, near the airport, were suspended for the day.

The Victoria Regional Juvenile Justice Center and the Brentwood neighborhood were not evacuated, but authorities urged residents to stay indoors.

Some residents who left homes in the quarantined area were not allowed to return until the spill was cleaned up.

Early Friday, an Adopt-A-Pet employee was allowed access into the pet adoption center to turn off the air conditioner and create a safe shelter for the animals.

The animals were safe.

Adopt-A-Pet will re-open Saturday, a volunteer wrote on Facebook.

The city of Victoria Fire Department, the Victoria Police Department, the Victoria County Sheriff's Office, the Office of Emergency Management, the County Fire Marshall and Texas Department of Public Safety were on the scene Friday morning. Several were at the city's command central trailer, stationed just more than half a mile south of the spill.

Calls to the Victoria location of Halliburton were referred to Halliburton headquarters in Houston. Those calls were not returned.



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