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Emergency Response on-the-spot analysis is spot on

Emergency Response on-the-spot analysis is spot on

Date Published: 30-Sep-16

The ChemCentre Emergency Response team was called upon this month when a chemical spill on a busy intersection in Malaga raised concerns as to what it may be and disrupted peak hour traffic. The spill reportedly came from a leaking plastic tank on the back of a private vehicle. Emergency Response Team Leader Dr Bob Muir said the initial call regarding the unknown blue liquid came into ChemCentre at about 1.30pm on 14 September.
“We immediately sent the Emergency Response mobile laboratory and a team of three chemists to the scene,” Bob said. “When the team arrived, there was chemical spilled over the road ranging over some 3km.  There was a lot of misinformation flying around about what it might be. In this sort of a case, it’s important to keep an open mind and get on with the job of identifying the chemical so that appropriate action can be taken to keep people safe and clean it up.”

ChemCentre’s mobile laboratory enables on-site analysis to be undertaken to identify hazardous chemicals. The three-chemist team attends with the vehicle, and they are backed up by at least two chemists working off-site to provide extra information about the chemical and the best methods to use to confirm its identity. At all times, the team communicates with the Hazard Management Agency coordinating the incident response on site, which is the Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES).

“The team in attendance at the Malaga incident – Nigel West, Korin Thompson and Ken Dods – kept clear heads, despite the pressure of the situation, including having to wear respirators and splash suits in order to take a sample of the material safely,” Bob said.

“There was a lot of disruption to traffic, which we acknowledge can be difficult for the public, but we have to focus on the job at hand at times like this. We need to err on the side of caution to be confident of ensuring public safety, so until we know what we are dealing with, we need to be very cautious.

“We had ruled out the presence of paraquat and unequivocally identified the chemical by about 5pm, which is good going. It was a common herbicide (MCPA), but we don’t come across it very often in this context.”

With the identification confirmed, the spill was cleaned up relatively quickly and easily. In this case, it was washed down with detergent and water, then immediately covered with sand, which was then vacuumed up and taken away to be disposed of appropriately.

“Because it was a herbicide, it was potentially very damaging to the environment so had to be removed completely and we were able to advise the DFES fire fighters how best to do this,” Bob said.

ChemCentre maintains a 24/7 emergency response capability to ensure that any potentially hazardous chemical incident can be responded to quickly and efficiently. Read more about emergency response service here.

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