Chemical leak prompts lockdown at nearby school

Posted at 12:13 PM, Feb 18, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-18 18:24:00-05

MIDDLETOWN, Ohio – A chemical leak caused a nearby elementary school to lock down and police to call or area residents to take shelter Thursday.

A tanker truck was unloading sulfur trioxide occurred at Pilot Chemical at 3439 Yankee Road in Middletown at about 11:13 a.m. when something went wrong, causing the liquid leak and a plume of gas.

The spill was contained, and the Middletown Division of Fire was working with Pilot crews to clean the affected spill area, Middletown officials said. Hazmat personnel from Hamilton, West Chester and Fairfield Township also responded.

School officials sheltered children in the cafeteria and shut all the windows at Amanda Elementary School. Police advised residents in the Amanda and Oneida neighborhoods west of Yankee Road to stay inside and "avoid skin contact and breathing of any suspicious clouds"  as a precaution.

"There's schools, businesses and some homes that we sent a reverse 911 call to have those individuals to shelter in place and stay home," Middletown Fire Chief Paul Lolli said.

Officials said the release dissipated quickly thanks to the clear weather conditions and it was safe to go outside.

Still, some concerned parents picked up their children.

"I heard that it was a chemical leak and that it was sulfur or something that could be acid, so I was just worried that the kids were breathing all that in," parent Anthony Gloss said.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, sulfur trioxide "reacts violently with water to form sulfuric acid with the release of heat. It is corrosive to metals and tissue. It causes eye and skin burns. Ingestion causes severe burns of mouth esophagus and stomach. The vapor is very toxic by inhalation. It is a fire risk when in contact with organic materials such as wood, cotton, fiberboard, etc."

Over the past 10 years, the company has otherwise had a clean record, with just one complaint that wasn't deemed credible, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. There is now an investigation underway.

Company representatives didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.