City contains nitric acid spill
LACONIA — Officials shut down several streets and evacuated residents and businesses early Tuesday morning following a potentially dangerous nitric acid spill at a fabrication business off Court Street.
Six Laconia firefighters were taken to the hospital for observation as a result of the twoalarm chemical spill which began around 5:15 a.m. at ABC Fabricators, located on Cook Court.
Laconia Fire Chief Ken Erickson said there were no employees in the building at the time the alarm sounded.
“Inside the building is a 275- gallon drum tank with 67 percent nitric [acid] and what happened is it heated up and [the tank] had a pressure valve on it that relieved some of the pressure but the fumes tripped the fire alarm around 5:15 a.m.,” said Erickson.
Upon arriving, Erickson said, crews went into the building expecting to find a fire. However, while investigating, officials smelled bleach and discovered the leak that had spilled all over the floor in one area of the building.
“The lieutenant noticed the red vapor cloud and evacuated everyone out,” said Erickson, adding that all 275 gallons inside at the time had escaped. “The vaporization was getting intense.”
As a precaution, officials evacuated several homes and businesses along Cook Court, Fair Street, Water Street, and Winnisquam Avenue, as well as the Herbert Foundry machine shop on Fair Street. Police blocked off roadways in those areas to keep motorists away from the scene.
Erickson said six of his firefighters were transported to Lakes Region General Hospital for observation of symptoms such as swelling and burning of the eyes, edema, and other reactions from being in contact with the acid.
According to an online company profile, ABC Fabricators Inc. is a private company established in 1979 which manufactured a variety of circuit boards. Erickson said he believed the company is closed and out of business.
By 9:30 a.m., Erickson said he believed the health threat to the public had passed but fire crews were still dealing with an active fire threat. Several fire hoses were in place and ready to go if the acid were to combust and start a fire.
Another concern was the city’s drinking water supply. Erickson said the groundwater supply was only about two feet below the surface and a real worry of officials was ensuring that lead did not seep into the water supply.
“We don’t get a lot of hazmat calls in the city,” said Erickson. “The nitric acid is probably one of the worst substances to deal with.”
Mother Nature played a role in the outcome of the spill in helping to disperse the vapors.
“The weather is actually a bonus today. If this was yesterday [Monday] then we’d be in trouble,” added Erickson on Tuesday. “The air is a little dryer and a good wind that is actually dispersing it.”
Some 30 or more firefighters from Laconia, Gilford, Belmont, Tilton-Nortfield, and Meredith responded to the scene while crews from surrounding communities worked to cover the stations. Crews from Central New Hampshire Haz-Mat and Clean Harbors also were on-scene to assist in cleaning up the spill.