EASTVALE: 15 employees, 1 firefighter injured during hazmat incident at Starkist canning facility

EASTVALE – Sixteen people, including a firefighter, were injured in an industrial accident caused by a chemical spill of concentrated acid at a Starkist Foods canning facility in the City of Eastvale, June 9. The accident, which was declared a mass casualty event by fire officials, forced the closure of the facility as well as surrounding roads. The facility is located in the 12000 block of Philadelphia Avenue.

Northwest aerial view of the large Sunkist canning facility where a spill of 40 gallons on concentrated acid sent 15 employees and one firefighter to the hospital.

Northeast aerial view of the large Sunkist canning facility where a spill of 40 gallons of concentrated acid sent 15 employees and one firefighter to the hospital.

The huge facility – also known as American Samoa – is located on the northwest end of Eastvale in an industrial area dotted by large warehouses and distribution centers.

The incident was reported to Riverside County dispatchers as a hazmat emergency at 2:48 p.m., according to Cal Fire/Riverside County Fire Public Information Officer April Newman.

A total of 15 employees – including four employees who sustained moderate injuries and eleven employees who sustained minor injuries – were transported by ground ambulance to area hospitals for further evaluation and treatment. All the employee injuries were related to breathing injuries caused by the chemical spill.

The firefighter was transported for an unspecified minor injury that was not related to inhalation injuries, according to Newman.

rvcfhazmatThe accident happened when an employee was off-loading a forty gallon, plastic barrel that was reportedly filled with concentrated cleaning acid.

As the employee was using a forklift to remove the barrel of acid from the back of a tractor-trailer semi truck at the facility’s loading dock, one of the forklift arms pierced the container. When the plastic drum was punctured the acid began to flood out of the barrel and spill into the facility.

After the chemical spilled, fumes filled the facility, forcing employees to immediately begin evacuating the facility. As employees were evacuating the facility, many of them were overcome by the fumes from the concentrated acid.

A total of 27 firefighters from five engine companies and one truck company responded to the mass casualty incident.

Deputies from the Riverside County Sheriff’s Jurupa Valley Station assisted during the emergency by closing Philadelphia Avenue between South Milliken and South Vintage Avenues and assisting with traffic control.

Numerous Streets around the canning facility were closed to through traffic during the mass casualty event in Eastvale.

Numerous Streets around the canning facility were closed to through traffic during the mass casualty event in Eastvale.

Along with firefighters and sheriff’s deputies, officials from the Riverside County Environmental Health, the Riverside County Fire’s Office Of Emergency Services, and AMR paramedics assisted during the emergency and clean-up of the chemical spill.

The containment zone was isolated to the affected business shortly before 5 p.m., Newman advised. Philadelphia Avenue was re-opened to through traffic about forty minutes later, as clean-up of the facility continued.

Emergency first responders had cleared the scene of the hazmat incident shortly before 6:30 p.m., according to Newman.

 

Correction: A previous version of this report listed Eastvale as an unincorporated community. Eastvale incorporated as a city October 1, 2010.

 

Contact the writer: trevor.rcns@gmail.com

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