Grafton and South Grafton fire crews donned gas-tight suits to mop up a sodium hydroxide spill yesterday.
Grafton and South Grafton fire crews donned gas-tight suits to mop up a sodium hydroxide spill yesterday.

TOXIC LEAK

By EMMA CORNFORD

A PIN-SIZED hole in a container is thought to have been the cause of a chemical spill at South Grafton yesterday morning.

The hole resulted in around 100 litres of sodium hydroxide leaking from the container into a truck transporting the highly corrosive fluid from Sydney to Brisbane, and onto the ground at the Shell Tornik.

Fire crews from Grafton and South Grafton attended the spill and a hazardous materials truck was deployed from Coffs Harbour.

Two fire crew members donned fluorescent yellow gas-tight suits to decant the liquid from the ruptured plastic tank ? which proved difficult for the crew to open ? into another container.

The driver of the truck, Bruce Long, said he noticed the leak as he was having a cup of coffee at the service station at around 7am.

"I saw that this side of the truck was a bit wet and I thought 'that's not good'.

"It had been raining and it was night time so I hadn't seen anything before I got here but I went around the other side of the truck I saw it was dribbling out."

Mr Long thought the substance was chlorine, but after opening the truck saw it was actually sodium hydroxide.

"It looks as if the container might have had a pinhole in it," he said.

"Sometimes those containers are left out in the sun and can get a bit hard which can cause that but I've told them that in Sydney they'd better have a look at their packing procedures and get new or at least near-new tanks in the future to put that stuff in so it doesn't happen again."

Grafton fire station officer Matt Malone said the spill had been cleared up and the area neutralised at 11.14am.

"By 10.07am the liquid was fully decanted and at 10.10am the residue was neutralised with dry soil.

"Everything went really well. The two fire brigades worked extremely well together and tried to keep the inconvenience to the station and its customers to a minimum."



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