Crews respond to spill at waste disposal site

By Patty Hastings, Columbian breaking news reporter

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A hazardous material spill shut down the Washougal Transfer Station on Wednesday afternoon and closed access to the nearby Columbia River Dike Trail.

The spill was reported at 4:17 p.m. at a waste disposal site, 4020 S. Grant St., at the Port of Camas-Washougal. A worker was moving trash using a front-end loader, when something spilled and formed a vapor cloud, Camas-Washougal Fire Department Battalion Chief Larry Larimer said. The vapor mildly burned the worker’s eyes and throat, and he immediately called 911. Firefighters evacuated the solid waste disposal center and called in the Vancouver hazardous materials team and the Washington State Department of Ecology to investigate the spill, Larimer said.

An officer with the Washougal Police Department and an animal control worker blocked access to the dike road to prevent people from coming into contact with any vapors.

“We always plan for the worst, so that we can protect people the best,” Larimer said.

Investigators determined that the material was muriatic acid, a diluted form of hydrochloric acid that is often used to clean pavement and balance pH in pools.

Wearing hazmat suits, specialists shoveled any material affected by the acid into barrels for proper disposal. Larimer said agencies involved assumed someone dropped off the material earlier on Wednesday — one of two days in the week when the station is open to the public for garbage drop-off.

“Whoever threw that away there caused an unnecessary response,” Larimer said. “It was a very irresponsible act.”

Chemicals, including acid and paints, he said, should never be thrown out with the rest of the trash because they can harm people and the environment.