Acid Cloud Leaks Out in Curtis Bay, Prompting Shelter-in-Place Order

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An aerial view of the Solvay plant, via Google Street View

A mishap at a Curtis Bay chemical plant this afternoon left residents of several South Baltimore and Anne Arundel County neighborhoods sheltered in place for an hour and a half.

The shelter-in-place order – accompanied by an insistent, shrill noise on city residents’ phones – was due to a leak of chlorosulfonic acid, according to Chief Roman Clark of the Baltimore Fire Department. It happened at the Solvay USA plant in the 2400 block of Fairfield Road.

Chlorosulfonic acid “decomposes on heating on contact with water producing toxic and corrosive fumes,” and “is very corrosive to the eyes, the skin and the respiratory tract,” according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That put anyone within a one-mile radius of the Solvay plant at risk of bodily harm if they made contact with the vapor.

Interestingly, a statement from Anthony Smith, the city’s director of training, exercise and special events, indicated the leak happened at 10:47 a.m., which was almost two hours before any emergency warning went out.

It occurred as crews were transferring the acid from a fixed container to a tanker truck, according to Smith. “Something went wrong as they were making the transfer from the tank to truck,” Clark said on the phone, noting other details were scant.

HAZMAT teams responded to the building and shut off a valve inside.

WBAL-TV’s chopper caught a glimpse of the gas plume overhead, before the cloud dissipated after about an hour. The shelter-in-place warning went into effect at about 12:30 p.m. for the 21060, 21225 and 21226 zip codes, which include Curtis Bay, Glen Burnie, Brooklyn, Brooklyn Park and the Fairfield Area.

The Baltimore Office of Emergency Management tweeted a visual of the affected radius around the plant.

Fortunately, Clark said no injuries were reported, and no one had fallen sick or ill in or around the plant.

The shelter-in-place warning remained from about 12:30 to 2 p.m.

This story has been updated with details from the mayor’s office.

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Ethan McLeod

Senior Editor at Baltimore Fishbowl
Ethan has been editing and reporting for Baltimore Fishbowl since fall of 2016. His previous stops include Fox 45, CQ Researcher and Connection Newspapers in Northern Virginia. His freelance writing has been featured in Baltimore City Paper, Leafly, DCist and BmoreArt, among other outlets. He enjoys basketball, humid Mid-Atlantic summers and story tips.
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