Thousands of gallons of toxic phenol were reportedly spilled at a Philadelphia chemical plant this week
A worker failed to close a valve Thursday at the AdvanSix plant in Philadelphia and up to 2,000 gallons of phenol spilled out, some of which could enter the sewer system, according to a police report.
The incident happened around 4:20 a.m. in the 2500 block of Bridge Street. The firefighters intervened, but did not request an evacuation. No one was hurt.
Phenol can be toxic to humans. The Company’s Frankford plant is one of the largest phenol producers in North America. The chemical is used in the manufacture of nylon polymer for carpet fibers, plastics and films, according to the company’s website.
Debi Lewis, spokeswoman for AdvanSix, said the incident happened while workers were loading a railcar. The plant is located just off I-95 and a canal that leads to the Delaware River; however, authorities said no chemicals ended up in the river.
“The team acted to minimize the release and quickly began their cleanup, while notifying the appropriate authorities, including local fire and police departments responding to the site,” Lewis said, adding, “at this moment, we believe that there is no risk for the community.
She said an investigation was ongoing and plant operations were continuing as normal.
“As always, AdvanSix is committed to the safety and health of our neighbors,” Lewis said.
She said there were still crews on site for secondary containment at the Frankford railcar loading site. She said the phenol “was contained and the sewers were protected.”
Lewis expects the cleanup to be completed by the weekend. The company did not have definitive figures on how much phenol actually escaped, but does not believe initial reports of the amount were accurate.
Kathy Matheson, spokeswoman for the Philadelphia Fire Department, said emergency crews were monitoring the cleanup only. AdvanSix, she said, was already dealing with the spill when responders arrived Thursday.
It was unclear how much of the chemical, if any, ended up in the sewers, which head to a treatment plant and ultimately the Delaware River.
Phenol is highly irritating to skin, eyes, and mucous membranes in humans after short-term inhalation or dermal exposures, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. It is highly toxic if ingested, but does not appear to have been a hazard at the scene.
Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection spokeswoman Virginia Nurk said the agency had been alerted to the release, some of which it confirmed entered the city’s combined sewer system.
The Philadelphia Water Department also responded to the scene.
Brian Rademaekers, a spokesperson for the department, said “preventive measures have been put in place in nearby creeks” and that “there was no indication that this situation has impacted the Delaware River.” .