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February 27, 2014
Hydrochloric acid found on BLM land

Leak allegedly originated from retention pond at US Magnesium 

US Magnesium has voluntarily entered into an agreement with the Environmental Protection Agency that will address the release of thousands of pounds of an acidic liquid waste onto adjacent federal land.

The spill, which contained about 8,000 pounds of hydrochloric acid, was discovered to be located on Bureau of Land Management property last month, during an ongoing investigation into the possible necessity of environmental remediation at the US Magnesium site in Rowley.

Tom Tripp, a technical services director with US Magnesium, said the company voluntarily reported the spill last month. The EPA released its official administrative order last Friday.

Under the order, US Magnesium will be required to immediately construct a fence around the affected 8-acre area, with warning signs posted every 150 feet. According to an EPA news release, staff from the BLM have already notified area land users and those with cattle grazing permits in the area.

US Magnesium is required to develop a plan to address the spill’s long-term ramifications, including its affect on soils and ground water in the area, according to the news release. It must also prepare a contingency plan in the event of any future spill.

Hydrochloric acid is corrosive and can cause moderate to severe damage to skin, eyes, respiratory organs and intestines if contacted, inhaled or ingested, according to the EPA press release. The acid is present naturally in the human digestive tract, and is used by scientists to dissolve samples for processing.

This particular spill was only slightly more acidic than lemon juice and would probably only cause a mild burning sensation if contacted, Tripp said. However, the company has agreed to fence and restrict access to the area to prevent any harm that could occur as a result  of the spill.

It is not clear exactly when the spill occurred, Tripp said. It appears to be the result of a release that leaked out of a dike surrounding an unlined retention pond. It could have occurred several months to several years ago, he said, but was only recently discovered during the ongoing investigation into environmental conditions at US Magnesium.

That investigation began about three years ago. Because US Magnesium is the potential location for a future Superfund site, the investigation is expected to continue for another four to eight years.

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