A caustic soda spill in Flat Creek reported Tuesday will have little to no environmental impact after the cleanup process is complete.
That’s according to Mike Ruddy, state on-scene coordinator and Hazmat specialist with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR), who worked on the spill.
City Administrator Russell Rost said the spill was called in by a neighboring business when employees noticed a milky substance in the stream.
John Florian, incident commander with Gateway Extrusions, said he was notified and immediately alerted city and appropriate state officials.
Also known as sodium hydroxide, the solution spilled into the creek is “mixable,” meaning it mixes with water and cannot be filtered or skimmed out, Ruddy said.
“The (cleanup) process is tedious, but as far as environmental impact, I would say when we’re done, there won’t be an impact at all,” he added.
When sodium hydroxide mixes with water, it’s diluted and the PH of the water is decreased.
A barrier was set up downstream approximately 130 yards from the spill to create a dam.
A contractor, Environmental Restoration, used a vacuum truck to remove more than 25,000 gallons of water from the creek.
Realistically, that’s not a lot of water, Ruddy noted, adding that the creek was hardly flowing.
“The extremely low flow of Flat Creek was a good advantage on getting the sodium hydroxide captured and controlling (the spill),” Ruddy said.
Teams worked overnight both Tuesday and Wednesday with plans to flush the creek Thursday. He said rain, which came Thursday night, would aid in the process. He did not expect crews to be on site Friday.
The creek’s PH level will continue to be monitored in the next several days and weeks.
Ruddy explained that a PH of 7 is considered neutral, but depending on the environment where a creek flows and what it flows over, the PH can range anywhere from 8 to 10.
The highest PH reading within 140 yards of the spill was 10, he noted.
Ruddy said crews would be finished flushing the creek Thursday.
Bob Nyman, vice president of Livingston Marketing & Communications, which is representing Gateway Extrusions, released a statement Wednesday, Aug. 9:
“The company is investigating the unknown effluent which appeared yesterday, August 8, 2017, in Flat Creek. The discharge was believed to have come from a nearby water drainpipe.
“The effluent does not pose a hazard to the public or the environment.
“An environmental restoration company is at the creek removing the effluent material, and their work is nearing completion, and no additional discharge has been observed.
“All appropriate federal, state, and municipal authorities have been notified.
“The physical source of the effluent, including the company or companies involved, has not been positively identified at this time.”
DNR attributed the spill to Gateway Extrusions, however, Nyman maintained that there are “common drainage systems” and that the company is “still not saying it’s a problem directly attributable to Gateway.”
Another spill occurred at the same site three years ago to the day, Ruddy said.
Nyman said the previous spill is not relevant to this week’s spill.
Ruddy was unsure what penalties might be imposed and said the focus was on lessening the impact of the chemical to the environment.