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How the Waupaca County Hazmat Team handles hazmat spills

Cleanup crews teamed up to handle the Pixelle Specialty Solutions spill
Published: May. 27, 2022 at 7:03 PM CDT
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WAUPACA, Wis. (WSAW) - The sulfuric acid hazmat spill at Pixelle Specialty Solutions in Stevens Point on Thursday took a team of experts to clean up.

The Stevens Point Fire Department said about 400 gallons of sulfuric acid spilled at the paper mill. Nine members of the Waupaca County Hazmat Team helped to contain the mess.

“We have to be prepared for them every day because there are so many chemicals in the city,” said Captain Ron Heibler, of the Stevens Point Fire Department.

It took the teamwork of multiple fire departments to contain the sulfuric acid at Pixelle Specialty Solutions.

“If it’s beyond our capabilities, we call for the hazmat teams. Plover, Waupaca, or Wausau,” said Heibler.

The Waupaca County Hazmat team jumped to the rescue when they got a call from the Stevens Point Fire Department.

“When we receive a call, we will send one of our officers directly to the scene to make contact with the incident commander,” said Steve Fenske, the director of the Waupaca County Hazmat Team.

The rest of the team mobilized and headed to the scene.

“While in route, some of the team members are doing research on the product we might be involved with. So we have a number of sources, of computer sources, even apps on the phone where we can get information on the product,” said Fenske.

On the scene, the hazmat team spoke to the facility manager to get more information about the spill.

“Depending on the acid, we have a corrosive nature possible. We don’t know if it’s going to react with anything else,” said Fenske.

The director of the hazmat team said some acids can be dangerous.

“A highly concentrated acid can cause burns to the skin and things like that. So that’s why we take the precautions in wearing chemical protective clothing that protects our hands, our face,” said Fenske.

The local fire departments helped the hazmat team with a decontamination line to rinse off any chemicals.

“They scrub everybody down. Make sure that if there is any chemical on the outside of the hazmat suit to make sure that chemical is scrubbed off, cleaned off,” said Fenske.

If you witness a hazmat spill, the Stevens Point Fire Department said to avoid it.

“If you hear it’s a hazmat spill, it’s a chemical incident. Don’t go to the scene because there are a lot of people that like to take a look, and see what’s going on. Don’t do that because we don’t know how bad it could get,” said Heibler.

The director of the Waupaca County Hazmat Team said they get about 6 calls a year on average.

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