Acid spill in harbor is deemed no threat

Canton company uses liquid to wash coal

September 26, 2006|By Richard Irwin | Richard Irwin,sun reporter

An acid used to clean coal spilled into the Baltimore harbor yesterday and was traced to a coal company at the southern edge of the Canton Industrial Area.

City fire officials said the spill is expected to dissipate over the next day or so without any threat to the environment or people.

The spill was first reported about 12:30 p.m. from Consolidated Coal Co. in the 3800 block of Newgate Ave. It went into the harbor where the Patapsco River merges with the Northwest Harbor.

The clay-colored substance covered 2 to 3 acres of water, said Chief Kevin Cartwright, a Fire Department spokesman. Firefighters tested the substance and found it was acidic, Cartwright said.

The Coast Guard and members of the Maryland Department of the Environment also responded and monitored the spill.

Cartwright said a few dead fish were seen floating atop the water and that the substance might have killed them.

Capt. Paul Demme, a Fire Department communications supervisor, said a city police helicopter and at least one fireboat were used to monitor the spill that formed off piers and was moved slowly by light breezes.

Demme said the level of acidity in the substance was strong enough to remove paint from a vehicle, but that as time wore on the strength of the acidity was lessened by the ebb and flow of the water.

He said the area of the spill was too large to contain with floating booms and that it would be allowed to dissipate naturally.

"A few high tides should cause it to dissipate completely," said Cartwright.

By 4 p.m., much of the spillage had broken up, he said.

Cartwright said state environment officials were to consult with the coal company, which is responsible for what entered the harbor and spilled onto their property.

He said the company may face penalties from by the state.

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