Kennecott Refinery Evacuated After Chemical Spill
MAGNA, Utah — A refinery near the Kennecott mine was evacuated and shut down after a 5.7-magnitude earthquake rocked the Wasatch Front, causing a chemical spill in a warehouse building. The leak has since been contained.
Crews have been monitoring the scene and working to clean up the spill, but it could still be days before the refinery will re-open.
Witnesses reported seeing plumes of smoke coming from the area a few hours after an earthquake rocked northern Utah at 7:09 a.m. Wednesday.
Firefighters from eight different agencies responded to the scene, including the Utah National Guard. The 85th Civil Support Team was deployed by Governor Gary Herbert just after noon to assess the damage.
Our 85th Civil Support Team has just deployed at the request of @SLCoGov to @kennecottutah due to a chemical leak caused from this morning's earthquake. The Immediate Response Unit will assist with air monitoring. @USNationalGuard @NationalGuard #AlwaysReady #AlwaysThere
— Utah National Guard (@UTNationalGuard) March 18, 2020
Unified Fire Authority Chief Dan Petersen said a material had spilled inside a large warehouse on the Kennecott property as a result of the quake. They discovered about 8,200 gallons of a 12,000-gallon tank had leaked out onto the catch basin, which caused plumes to rise from the building.
Crews were able to identify the material as hydrochloric acid. They were originally concerned that the chemical had mixed with something, potentially causing more danger to the public, but they were able to rule that out.
Most of the emergency responders ended up simply standing by near Saltair in the event that their help would be needed.
“We’ve provided some air-monitoring and some other equipment,” said Mathew McFarland, UFA spokesman. “We’ve spoken directly with them throughout the process (to) help them determine what the best course of action is.”
McFarland said UFA has trained alongside Kennecott teams often to be ready for situations like this.
All operations have been temporarily halted as a precaution, but Kennecott officials said all team members and contractors were safe and accounted for. No was injured in the spill or in response to the spill, and there was no immediate danger to the public.
We are currently conducting a full assessment of our site, and operations have been temporarily halted until we can ensure it is safe to go back to work.
— Rio Tinto Kennecott (@kennecottutah) March 18, 2020
Six hazmat crews have been left on site to monitor the situation. They’ve had to double-check the area for damage after each aftershock.
.@FireAuthority: UFA Hazmat techs working closely w Kennecott as they monitor for any residual issues just south of the U202/U201/I-80 interchanges. The response showed value in previous training btwn many agencies, who came together to support a potential incident. #utahquake
— KSL 5 TV (@KSL5TV) March 18, 2020
SR-201 was temporarily closed while crews completed an inspection of the tailings facility. It eventually opened back up after about 30 hours.
The west end of SR-201 is currently back open after a 30+ hour closure due to the earthquake.
— Utah Highway Patrol (@UTHighwayPatrol) March 19, 2020
Officials said the refinery will re-open once they feel it is safe to do so.
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