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Name: JoAnn
Status: educator
Age: 50s
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: 2001 - 2002

What information do you have on cleaning up hydrochloric acid spills?


You may find specific information by doing a search of the terms such as "acid spills".

Exactly what you want to do depends on the conditions of the particular event. For example, what you may do for cleaning up a leaking 55 gal. drum in a warehouse will differ from what you would do for a spill of 50 ml. on a lab bench top. In either case the following principles apply:

1. Protect personnel from injury. This may mean evacuation, or calling a local HAZMAT team from the fire or police department.

2. Have a plan in place for cleanup prior to the event, and have personnel trained to execute the plan. This may mean all personnel, or individual personnel trained to handle a spill -- it all depends on the circumstances.

3. Be sure that the equipment and materials for cleanup are stored and available. In some instances this may mean SCUBA gear, for example, since HCl vapor is extremely irritating when inhaled.

In general, three principles apply to all spills:

1. Handling reagents in a hood, or having Vermiculite readily available are examples of CONFINEMENT.

2. DILUTION. Always stay "upwind" of the spill and pour or spray water on the spill to reduce the potential danger of skin contact or inhalation. Of course this does not mean dumping 5 gal of water on a lab spill of 100 ml. Reasonable action must always be kept in mind.

3. NEUTRALIZATION. Sodium bicarbonate or sodium carbonate are the common materials used to neutralize acid spills. These may come in commercially available "spill kits" for acid spills. Buying such a kit is probably the best way to go. They are not very expensive, they have all the materials you need in one unit, and they have instructions for their proper use.

Vince Calder

Baking soda is very effective in neutralizing the acid. Make sure all acid is neutralized by adding baking soda to an area in question if there is no more fizzing than it has been neutralized. After that you can either hose it away or clean it up like you would spilled salt.

-Darin Wagner

It is generally a good idea to have on-hand a MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) for each chemical/product/substance that you may have occasion to work with. If the material is at your place of work, you may be required to have the MSDS as available as the material it references, to satisfy your Right-To-Know the nature of the hazards to which you may be exposed . A MSDS will give information pertaining to the composition, associated hazards, safe use and handling of the material, including the information you request. I have consulted a MSDS to assemble this information. You did not say how big a spill. Keep in mind that the EPA Reportable Quantity (RQ) is 5,000 lbs. (2237 kg.) which is approximately 1,300 gallons. Always avoid breathing the vapors of HCl. Use only in a well ventilated area, or with adequate local ventilation/exhaust. Avoid contact with living tissue.

For small spills, cover the contaminated surface with sodium bicarbonate, soda ash or lime. Mix and add water if necessary to form a slurry. Scoop up slurry and wash site with sodium bicarbonate solution. For large spills, evacuate persons from area that are not equipped with proper protective equipment (refer to your MSDS). Stay upwind of any spill. Stop leak at source. Dike to prevent spreading. Pump to non-metallic salvage drum/tank/truck. In all cases, clean-up and disposal is to be done in conformance with local, State and federal laws and ordinances.

Tim Spry

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