Niles police, firefighters contain acid at French’s

Published 8:11 am Saturday, January 20, 2007

By By ANDY HAMILTON / Niles Daily Star
NILES – Nearly 100 gallons of sulfuric acid spilled Friday morning in a parking lot at French Paper Co. in Niles.
There were no injuries and no equipment was damaged, said Jerry French, president of French Paper. Niles Fire Chief Larry Lamb said firefighters with the City of Niles and Niles Township, Niles police officers and members of the Niles Haz-Mat team were called to French Paper, 100 French St., at 5:44 a.m.
"A container tipped while being transported [by forklift] and our trained mill staff contained, neutralized and cleaned up the spill. Nobody was injured and at no time was anyone in danger," French said. "We appreciate the quick and professional response by the fire department."
French said sulfuric acid is used in paper making for pH control.
Both Lamb and French confirmed the spill was contained to the parking lot directly behind the company's office building, and none of the sulfuric acid is believed to have drained into the St. Joseph River that runs alongside the factory, French added. Niles Public Works Director Neil Coulston said he inspected a manhole in the street in front of French Paper at about 9:30 a.m. Friday and did not find any indication the liquid had drained into it.
"The plant personnel at the scene did a very good job containing the product," Lamb said, adding the cold temperature and snow helps dilute and slow down reaction.
French added employees at the factory are trained on how to handle different chemical spills. French Paper employees and emergency personnel used a powder to soak up the sulfuric acid and it was then placed in a dumpster and French Paper is waiting approval from state agencies to dispose of it, French said. The company has been in contact with the state throughout the day, he added.
Emergency personnel cleared the scene by 7:50 a.m., Lamb said.