Hazardous Materials Spill at Deer Island Adds to Storm Response Confusion

Thursday, September 1, 2011
By Joe Domelowicz
Though the impacts of Tropical Storm Irene on Winthrop as it passed through Sunday were not very significant, an unrelated hazardous materials spill during the storm, did create some added confusion and problems for the Winthrop public safety departments.

According to Fire Chief Paul Flanagan, a 250-gallon sulphuric acid spill inside the plant on Sunday night, August 28, generated a level three hazardous materials response from the city of Boston, which resulted in 21 pieces of firefighting and hazardous materials apparatus rushing to the island through Winthrop.

Curious residents followed the trucks to Deer Island to see what all the fuss was about and mistakenly thought the response was related to the closure of the deer Island walking path, which had had in reality been closed before the storm, to discourage from trying to get an up close look at the storm.

“In reality, the chemical spill was actually handled within the plant by plant personnel, mostly before Boston crews even got there,” said Chief Flanagan. “Unfortunately, people who came down to the island to see what all of the trucks were for, saw that the path had been closed and they panicked, thinking that the storm had damaged the plant or that they were somehow in danger.”

Flanagan said that no people or property was ever in danger during the chemical spill, but that the heightened response by Boston, coupled with the lingering hurricane issues combined to scare people anyway.

“We really had quite a busy time answering phone calls and calming people down, as the storm was winding down,” he said.

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