A recent chemical spill at the Port of Olympia was larger than first reported, according to state Department of Ecology documents obtained through a public records request.
The documents also shed light on the strength of hydrogen peroxide that spilled from a tank at the port’s marine terminal about noon on Jan. 28.
The spill led to a large emergency response. S everal businesses within a quarter-mile of the marine terminal were evacuated; some employees were asked to stay indoors.
Hydrogen peroxide is used in the port’s stormwater treatment process, re-introducing oxygen into the water before it is released into Budd Inlet.
The chemical was stored in a 10,000-gallon storage tank, not a 3,300-gallon tank, the documents show, which includes a report produced by state Department of Ecology spill responders.
Olympia Fire Department put out a news release following the spill, specifically stating that the leak emerged from a smaller-size tank.
Deputy Fire Chief Greg Wright said Wednesday that he couldn’t say exactly where the number came from, although it may have been a misunderstanding between fire and port officials.
The 10,000-gallon tank contained 9,600-gallons at the time of the spill: 5,000 gallons flowed into a concrete containment area, while another 4,600 gallons overflowed the containment area into the “rest of the building, and to the outside soil, pavement and stormwater catch basins,” according to the report.
The building that contains the tank also has floor drains that discharge into the sewer system that flows to the LOTT sewage treatment plant.
Once the chemical entered the sewer system, it generated white vapor clouds that could be seen rising from manhole covers.
Ecology spill responders and Olympia Fire agreed on a dilution plan at the time, so fire officials popped open a manhole and sprayed water into the sewage system.
As for the strength of the chemical, “research on 50 percent hydrogen peroxide solution found it was a strong oxidizer and corrosive,” according to the report.
Jim Sachet, a supervisor with spill response for Ecology’s Southwest Regional Office, added some details in a email. The email was included in the records request.
In addition to being a strong oxidizer, other hazards include “fire, explosion, inhalation and skin/eye contact,” he said.
Sachet added: “The cause of the leak is still under investigation.”
Port environmental programs director Alex Smith later added at a port commission meeting that a valve connected to the tank may have exploded.
No injuries were reported at the time of the spill, although Olympia resident Marcia Drake later stepped forward, saying she had been diagnosed with chemical pneumonitis at Providence St. Peter Hospital, following a lunchtime visit to the Italian restaurant Mercato on the day of the spill. Mercato is near the port.
Drake could not be reached on Wednesday.
Up next is a report by the industrial stormwater section of Ecology’s Water Quality Program. That is expected to be complete in early March, said Water Quality Industrial Unit Manager Steve Eberl. His department is awaiting the results of a second forensic investigation of the spill by an engineering company hired by the port.