FREEPORT, Ill. (WTVO) — One day after a chemical spill forced a Freeport neighborhood indoors, the scene at Modern Plating Corporation is back to normal.
“I’ve been in the fire service for 31 years, and that’s the first one I’ve had like that,” recalled Freeport Fire Chief Brad Liggett. “None of the hazardous materials got into any of the storm sewers or the local waterway, we’re very fortunate that didn’t happen.”
Chief Liggett responded to a Tuesday night call of 5,500 gallons of hydrochloric acid spilling onto pavement after a holding tank malfunctioned.
Just a few blocks away, Steven Winter uses the same chemical to clean equipment at Generations Brewing Co.
“It was funny, I heard the story and it seemed like it was a really big deal, and I heard what chemical got spilled and I said ‘oh, well we use that stuff all the time,'” said Winter.
Hydrochloric acid is safe in small quantities, but when a truckload of the chemical hits the ground, it’s extremely dangerous.
“With hydrochloric acid you can inhale the vapors, and it’s acid so it mixes with the fluid in your lungs or mucus membranes and causes chemical burns,” said Chief Liggett.
Freeport Fire trains for hazmat situations consistently, officials say the trick to preparing for a situation is knowing what chemicals are out there.
“Our hazardous materials team monitors those reports and then makes preparations and pre-plans our response to those facilities,” said Chief Liggett.
In hazmat situations, the Fire Department’s role is public safety, and cleanup is usually done by contracted companies through insurance.