The Guardian/19 September 2017
Emergency crews have attended a large-scale acid leak in Hull, which caused a vapour cloud to form over a dock in the east of the city.
The fire service had initially warned nearby residents to close their doors and windows as a precautionary measure after a tank containing 580 tonnes of hydrochloric acid sprang a leak at the King George dock late on Monday.
By the early hours of Tuesday morning, firefighters said the wind was blowing the vapour away from houses near the United Molasses site, where the leak occurred, and declared the area near the dock safe.
However, a spokeswoman from Humberside fire and rescue service confirmed firefighters had returned to the site on Tuesday afternoon following a change in the direction of the wind, and a number of emergency service vehicles, including an ambulance, could be seen waiting on standby nearby.
The service said its officers were helping as the acid was being transferred on to tankers to be taken away safely. “An exclusion zone within a section of the Port of Hull has been established,” said a spokeswoman. “Please be assured nobody outside the exclusion zone should be concerned.”
A spokesperson for Associated British Ports (ABP), which owns the dock, described the leak as ongoing, but under control. They said air particulate samples had confirmed that air quality was within safe levels.
“We can confirm that eight people reported signs of feeling unwell as a result of this incident. Four were assessed at the scene and discharged immediately, four were taken to hospital for further assessment. All have now been discharged and are showing no further symptoms.”
Simon Donnachie from Humberside fire and rescue service said: “With any sort of corrosive leak you’re going to have some sort of vapour cloud.” He said emergency services had tested the gas cloud for acidity and that the risk it posed to human health was minimal.
“[The cloud] dissipated a short distance so we were not concerned about it reaching villages,” he said. “We were more concerned about ABP as a site.”
Speaking to the Hull Daily Mail on Tuesday afternoon, staff at ABP said they had arrived at work only to be put on lockdown a few hours later and told not to open windows.
The leak occurred on a site managed by United Molasses, which focuses on the global trading and marketing of molasses, vegetable oils and related products and the storage of bulk liquids.
The Environment Agency confirmed it had attended the site in the early hours of Tuesday. It said there appeared to be no leakage into the Humber or any other environmental impact.
A spokesperson from the Health and Safety Executive said it was aware of the incident and was liaising with the Environment Agency. “We will carry out an investigation once the initial incident has been fully dealt with,” it said.