Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes
This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.
Samantha Hayes Reporting It's dangerous, it’s extremely corrosive, and now hundreds of gallons of Sodium Hydroxide are in the South Salt Lake canal system.
Chief Steve Foote, South Salt Lake Fire Dept.: "If we had gotten early notification of this we could have contained it to the site."
But instead, the chemical that spilled out of the Culligan Water plant has created an environmental hazard that crews have been trying to contain. An estimated 140-thousand gallons of water in the nearby canal is contaminated with this chemical, used in Culligan's water softening process.
Sodium Hydroxide is so corrosive even concrete doesn't stand a chance against it, so imagine the problem crews face trying to clean it up.
Chief Steve Foote: “The chemical ate its way through the building and got into the waterway that's right next to the rail yard down here."
Foote says is happened like this. The Sodium Hydroxide was inside a cylindrical container. A pipe at the bottom snapped, allowing the chemical to flow into a secondary concrete barrier. It ate through that and the concrete foundation of the building on the west side.
From there it spilled into the north and south parking lots and down the storm drains, which carried the chemical underground and into the canal.
Chief Steve Foote: "So when you look at it it’s pretty impressive to see the power of this chemical and what it went through to get to the water way."
The fire department says the chemical was spilling for nearly six hours before they were called to the scene, creating an even bigger problem.
Chief Steve Foote: "So we could have kept the chemical here and pumped it back into the vessel that delivered the chemical and taken it back to the sight."
Instead a private company will perform the complicated task of neutralizing thousands of gallons of canal water, but that may take more than a week. Now Foote wants some answers from Culligan.
Chief Steve Foote: “Yes there's going to be some problems with this company in that they didn't make early notification. They need to be aware there are guidelines you have to follow when you have this kind of stuff on your property."
We contacted Culligan before 5:00, but didn't receive a response. This is the second chemical spill in South Salt Lake, the first being a tanker spill in March, and it’s stressing the fire department's budget.