Thousands of gallons of toxic phenol reportedly spilled this week at a Philly chemical plant
The incident occurred as workers were loading a railcar at the location just off I-95 and a channel that leads to the Delaware River.
A worker failed to shut off a valve Thursday at the AdvanSix plant in Philadelphia and up to 2,000 gallons of phenol spilled, with some possibly entering the sewer system, according to a police report.
The incident occurred at about 4:20 a.m. on the 2500 block of Bridge Street. The fire department responded, but did not call for an evacuation. No one was injured.
Phenol can be toxic to humans. The company’s Frankford plant is one of the largest producers of phenol in North America. The chemical is used in the manufacturing of nylon polymer for carpet fibers, plastics, and films, according to the company’s website.
Debi Lewis, a spokesperson for AdvanSix, said the incident occurred as workers were loading a railcar. The plant is located just off I-95 and a channel that leads to the Delaware River; however, authorities said none of the chemical found its way to the river.
“The team acted to minimize the release and promptly began its cleanup, while at the same time notifying the proper authorities, including the local fire and police departments who responded to the site,” Lewis said, adding, “at this time we believe there is no risk to the community.”
She said an investigation is ongoing and plant operations are continuing as normal.
“As always, AdvanSix is committed to the safety and health of our neighbors,” Lewis said.
She said there are crews still on site for secondary containment at the Frankford railcar loading location. She said the phenol “was contained, and the sewers have been protected.”
Lewis expects cleanup will be completed by the weekend. The company did not have final figures as to how much phenol actually escaped but does not believe that initial reports of the amount were accurate.
Kathy Matheson, a spokesperson for the Philadelphia Fire Department, said emergency crews are only monitoring the cleanup. AdvanSix, she said, was already addressing the spill by the time responders arrived Thursday.
It was not clear how much of the chemical, if any, ended up in the sewer, which runs to a treatment plant and, ultimately, the Delaware River.
Phenol is highly irritating to the skin, eyes, and mucous membranes in humans after short-term inhalation or dermal exposures, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. It is highly toxic if ingested, but that does not appear to have been a danger at the scene.
Virginia Nurk, a spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, said the agency was alerted to the release, some of which she confirmed entered into the city’s combined sewer system.
The Philadelphia Water Department also responded to the scene.
Brian Rademaekers, a spokesperson for the department, said “preventative measures were put into place at the nearby inlets” and that there “was no indication that this situation impacted the Delaware River.”