Chemical Leak at Mattawoman Wastewater Treatment Plant Confined to Storage Building

Approximately 1,400 gallons of sodium hypochlorite that leaked from a storage tank at the Mattawoman Wastewater Treatment Facility, 5310 Hawthorne Road, yesterday evening were contained within the building where the chemical was stored. There were no injuries to facility employees or emergency responders, nor evacuation of the facility or surrounding community, reported the Communications Division of the Charles County Department of Emergency Services.

Monitors alerted facility personnel of the incident, which was reported at 7:06 p.m. to emergency response personnel. Companies from the Potomac Heights, Bryans Road, Indian Head, and La Plata Volunteer Fire Departments and the Indian Head Division, Naval Surface Warfare Center, Hazardous Materials (IH NSWC HAZ MAT) Response and Charles County Tactical Response teams responded.

The leak occurred around a pipe fitting in a 5,000-gallon storage tank in a storage building, said Jerry Michael, Director of the Department of Utilities, which oversees the operation of the treatment facility.

"The leaked chemical was contained in a protective berm inside the building, which kept it from escaping into the atmosphere, water supplies, or the surrounding community. The IH NSWC HAZ MAT team had the leak under control before 11 p.m.," said Utilities Director Michael."

Sodium hypochlorite is a bleaching agent, which is used at the Mattawoman facility to treat and purify wastewater effluent before it is discharged into the river, explained Utilities Director Michael. When not controlled, the chemical can decompose into chlorine, which irritates the eyes, nose, skin, and throat, and is harmful if swallowed.

Before repairs can begin, the chemical must be offloaded from the tank and containment area into a specially lined tanker truck for transfer to another storage tank at the facility. Repairs are expected to be completed before the end of the week, according to Utilities Director Michael.

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