An acid spill at an auto plant sent 23 people to a Niagara Region hospital Tuesday, including three who were directly exposed to the hazardous material, but all were discharged later in the day.
The spill took place at THK Rhythm Automotive, which makes a variety of linkage and suspension products, including control arms, ball joints and tie rod ends, in St. Catharines, Ont. First responders said they were called in the morning after contractors were exposed to a vapour cloud of hydrochloric acid that was released after a concentrated leak.
"Staff on scene accidentally bumped a valve, which released approximately five litres of hydrochloric acid," Dave Upper, fire chief of St. Catharines Fire Services, said in a phone interview.
"Once they realized that the valve was open and the spill occurred, they immediately closed the valve."
Three people were directly exposed through inhalation and skin contact, said Upper. The liquid transformed into a vapour cloud and 20 other staff members in the area were exposed solely through skin contact with the vapour, he said.
Emergency responders used decontamination showers on site to wash those who were exposed before taking them to hospital, Upper said, adding that the hazardous material was contained within the plant and there was no risk to public health.
The three people who were directly exposed were taken to hospital in stable condition via ambulance, while the 20 others were taken by a city bus arranged by fire services.
"We wanted to get them there quickly so they could get checked and monitored, and we did not want to tie up all of the Niagara EMS units," Upper said.