Chemical leak in west Charlotte leaves burns through employee's clothing

by: Torie Wells Updated:

Loading

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Things appeared to be operating normally Wednesday at the Emerald Carolina Chemical plant.

Fire and hazmat crews were called there Tuesday night. The fire department says a loose hose allowed triflic acid to leak, burning the clothes of an employee. Fire officials say that person was treated at the scene and was OK.

The chemicals material safety data sheet says triflic acid "can produce severe chemical burns following direct contact with the skin."

"It's what's called a super acid," said Greg Santo, vice president of operations for OSEA, a company that trains others in workplace and environmental safety.

Santo says that when working with dangerous chemicals, companies have to follow federal, state and local guidelines. But sometimes even that's not enough.

"Even if you practice and stay within EPA, OSHA and DOT guidelines, you still can have an accident," said Santo.

He says maintenance is key.

Eyewitness News also found documents that lay out allegations of other issues in the past that could have the company paying fines to the federal government and Mecklenburg County.

The complaint and consent decree were filed in August. The federal government and Mecklenburg County allege the company found three different leaks in its equipment and allowed them to go unfixed for weeks.

It is not clear if any chemical actually leaked in those instances.

According to those documents, while the company doesn't admit it did anything wrong in these cases, it agreed to pay $125,000 in fines.

Santo says legal proceedings like this are common, but a reminder companies should be as proactive as possible.

Tuesday night an operator was in the process of adding acid chemical to a vessel when a small amount splashed back
onto the operator's shirt.

The plant manager said the acid didn't burn through the employee's shirt.

At that point the manufacturing process was terminated and the employee took the correct precautions.

The employee immediately went to a safety shower and washed the chemical off.

The released acid was minimal and contained to the building.

The employee was looked at by EMT's and was cleared.

The employee finished the remainder of the work shift.

The plant manager said the plant has an exemplary safety record and that the record continues due to no one being hurt in last Tuesday night's incident.