Friday, December 10, 1999

Press release photo
Brewer Environmental's spill of 35 tons of sulfuric acid
also released deadly chlorine gas into the air on Thanksgiving
Day. This photo of the Campbell Industrial Park site a week
after the incident shows the tank that leaked and soda ash,
the white substance used to neutralize the acid.

EPA investigating
‘significant’ spill,
Brewer response

The federal agency gives
the company 30 days to
respond to its questions

By Crystal Kua


Three gray metal storage tanks labeled "SULFURIC ACID CORROSIVE" loom over a gravel trench with a yellow chemical liquid pooling on one end.

These tell-tale signs that something happened at the Brewer Environmental Industries facility at Campbell Industrial Park were still evident yesterday, as a federal environmental official described the 35-ton sulfuric acid spill at the site as "significant."

"When we heard the initial numbers, we viewed this as a significant release to the environment," said Michael Feeley, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Superfund deputy director. "There were air releases, too. Sometimes air releases are more risky and hazardous."

The EPA has begun investigating whether Brewer violated federal laws and regulations with its Thanksgiving Day spill.

Press release photo
A hole in a trench let the chemicals into the water.

The agency has asked Brewer for information relating to four statutes or regulations.

"Most of those statutes relate to releases to the environment -- how you report those releases, what those releases are, the chemicals that were involved in those releases," Feeley said.

Brewer has 30 days to respond.

"We do look at that information and if there are violations of federal statute or regulations. We can and we might take an enforcement action against them," Feeley said.

State Health Director Bruce Anderson said a chemical spill is a violation of state laws that could include state superfund laws. He said the health department is monitoring Brewer's cleanup.

"They have a good cleanup plan as far as we can tell," Anderson said.

By Craig T. Kojima, Star-Bulletin
State health director Bruce Anderson, left, and Michael Feeley
(with beard), deputy director of the Environmental Protection
Agency Superfund, talk about the acid spill and a federal
investigation. The EPA has asked Brewer Environmental
Industries for information in checking for violations of
federal law. Brewer has been criticized for time taken
before the community was notified.

Gary Gill, state Environmental Health deputy director, said a private company that was brought in to help with the cleanup of the spill has submitted a $60,000 bill.

Brewer's reporting of the incident is also under scrutiny. Feeley said federal laws require "immediate" reporting to the EPA and other agencies following a spill.

A faulty valve let sulfuric acid leak from one of three holding tanks.

The acid then ate its way through a concrete bunker holding the remnants of a chlorine bleach wash. When the sulfuric acid made contact with the chlorine bleach, chlorine gas was released into the air but was immediately blown out to sea.

Stephen Knox, Brewer Environmental Industries president, said the company is reviewing its emergency response plan to see where improvements can be made.

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