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Acid Spill injures eight workers at Fort Atkinson plant

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NEIL W. JOHNSON
September 15, 2010
— Eight workers were treated for injuries from a phosphoric acid spill at a Fort Atkinson manufacturing plant Tuesday morning, officials said.

Spacesaver Corp. reported at 5:15 a.m. Tuesday that a valve broke on a 330-gallon container of metal cleaning solution at the company’s manufacturing plant at 1700 Janesville Ave. on the city’s south side, said Capt. Mark Schoenleber of the Fort Atkinson Fire Department.


About 275 gallons of the solution, which contained phosphoric acid, poured onto the floor of the plant, officials said.


Jefferson County hazmat and emergency responders from Fort Atkinson, Johnson Creek and Lake Mills responded, evacuating about 50 third-shift workers and shutting down a street near the plant for several hours, Schoenleber said.


Eight plant workers came in contact with the acid and were treated and released for “minor skin irritation” at Fort Memorial Hospital, said Mike Ghislain, vice president of human resources at Spacesaver.


Schoenleber said two emergency responders at the spill also were treated for exposure to the acid.


Spacesaver, which manufactures metal shelving and storage units, uses the chemical that spilled to clean metal before it’s painted, Ghislain said. It contains less than 10 percent phosphoric acid, he said.


“It’s a fairly low-level (solution). You don’t generally handle this stuff with respirators when it’s handled,” Ghislain said.


Ghislain said it’s not clear why the valve failed, but he called the spill “a minor hazard and a minor incident.”


He said plant employees were working late Tuesday morning to clean up the spill. Plant managers expected to resume operations by 2 p.m. Tuesday, Ghislain said.


Schoenleber said fire and emergency officials cleared the scene at about 11:15 a.m. Tuesday.



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