Spill forces emergency cleanup

Absorbent materials were used to contain a hydrochloric acid spill at the county hazardous material collection site this past Thursday.

Local firefighters, police officers, deputies and hazardous waste decontamination crews were put to work last Thursday, May 30 cleaning up a hydrochloric acid spill at the county’s hazardous waste collection event at the Milaca City Garage.

Milaca Fire Chief Greg Weller said at 6:15 p.m. the chemicals were brought to the site in five 30-gallon drums in the back of a pick-up truck, and some of it was stored in 2-liter plastic soda bottles. Rural Milaca resident Larry Zalesky was driving the truck.

“What I was told when I arrived on the scene was the stuff was being unloaded and he got some of it on his clothes, which started to disintegrate immediately,” Weller said.

The fire chief said the man’s skin was also exposed to the chemicals, but he refused medical treatment.

More than 2,000 gallons of water were used to decontaminate the truck until Ph results were cleared by the hazardous materials clean up crew from WCEC of Minneapolis.

Milaca City Parks Director Greg Moyer used one of the city skids to erect a dirt berm in order to block off a nearby storm sewer to prevent the chemicals from entering the system. Meanwhile, crews used absorbent mats to slow down the flow of the liquid.

“You could smell it,” Weller said. “I have no idea what this stuff was for or what he was doing with it. There is a lot of this junk out there, and we have to watch out for it. It literally pealed the paint and the rust off the floor of that truck.”

Emergency spill response members told local responders to take the truck to the compost site until it was fully decontaminated.

Milaca Police Chief Todd Quaintance said a report will be submitted to the county attorney’s office for review, but didn’t anticipate criminal charges.

“It was not an intentional act, so I doubt that any charges would be filed,” he said.

Although the clean-up took more than three hours, Weller said this rare type of emergency highlights the importance of proper training. None of the responders were harmed because of the spill.

“It was a very interesting call,” Weller said. “All of our firefighters are haz-mat trained and this is why.”