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Texas acid spill prompts evacuation

By Stephanie Sanchez
The El Paso Times

EL PASO, Texas — Firefighters evacuated about 25 people from four West Side businesses Monday after a hydrochloric acid spill.

No significant injuries occurred, but two men got the acid on their clothing and complained of nausea and dizziness, firefighters said.

The men declined to be taken to a hospital, so a hazardous materials team treated them outside Chem Station, a laboratory at 4731 Ripley.

The men were handling the acid in the lab when a cone-shaped mixer broke about 9:30 a.m. This caused acid to spill onto the floor, said Lt. Mario Hernandez, a Fire Department spokesman.

Between 50 and 100 gallons went down a drain, he said. The men, he said, shut off the machine to prevent more acid from dispensing.

They also attempted to contain the rest of the spill with sponges and mops, he said.

About 55 firefighters were called. They were neutralizing the acid with baking soda, a job that continued well into the afternoon.

Chem Station general manager Marco Paoli said the acid is used to clean the outside of concrete dispensing trucks.

After he learned of the spill, Paoli ran to Cesar-Scott, a wire manufacturer next door, and told its workers to evacuate.

Emergency crews also cleared workers from Arrow Electronics and Global Harness Systems.

Glen Blanch, a manager at Global Harness Systems, also a wire manufacturer, said he was alone in the office when firefighters entered and told him to leave.

He said the scariest moment was being evacuated.

“It was alarming. They came in and they had their suits on and said, ‘You’ve got to get out.’ I said, ‘OK, let me shut down,’ and they said, ‘No, you’ve got to get out.’”

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