The St. Louis County Hazardous Materials Response Team, which includes Professional Fire Fighters of Eastern Missouri Local 2665 members, were called to respond when a chemical tank at GKN Aerospace in Hazelwood, Missouri, containing Nitric Acid leaked creating an orange, toxic cloud to escape from the building.

When the team arrived, the orange vapor cloud was hovering over the building. The team needed to quickly determine what dangers the chemical posed before deciding on a response strategy.

“After the HazMat training we received through the IAFF, our team changed its whole response process,” says Creve Coeur Fire District Assistant Chief Andy Seers, a member of the St. Louis County HazMat team and Local 2665. “Thanks to the training, we can now respond more efficiently and effectively to protect the public.”

Prior to the training, the team’s response process was focused on trying to identify the chemical.  After attending the IAFF HazMat training, that process changed to responding to the hazards present rather than the chemical itself.

For this incident, the chemical was determined to be an extremely corrosive, fuming acid.  The acid produced a very toxic vapor which was being drawn through the ventilation system and sent outside.

The location of the aerospace company complicated initial operations as the St. Louis Lambert International Airport and a passenger railway line are close by. But, the HazMat team evacuated the company building and secured the surrounding area. Once inside the building, the team accessed the situation and shut down the ventilation system, containing the toxic vapor inside the building.

Units remained on scene until the nearly 3000 gallons of Nitric Acid was no longer reacting and was stabilized.  The scene was then turned over to an environmental cleanup company to remove the product