Cancer-causing chemical seeps in to Quinnipiac River after spill - WFSB 3 Connecticut

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Cancer-causing chemical seeps in to Quinnipiac River after spill in Southington

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Crews work to clean up chemical spill at metal company in Southington (WFSB). Crews work to clean up chemical spill at metal company in Southington (WFSB).
DEEP officials said residents should not eat any fish that is caught between South Main Street and Queen Street (DEEP) DEEP officials said residents should not eat any fish that is caught between South Main Street and Queen Street (DEEP)
SOUTHINGTON, CT (WFSB) -

Emergency crews continue to work to clean up a hazardous chemical spill at a business in Southington.

On Wednesday night, hundreds of gallons of a cancer-causing chemical called hexavalent chromium spilled out of the Light Metals Coloring Company at 270 Spring St., located near Graham Place.

The chemicals spilled onto the roof and were discharged through vents into the parking lot and road.

Crews said the spill happened after a crack formed in the water heating. Then, a boiler overflowed with gallons of the chemical.

"It ran off the roof through the drains, got into the storm system," said Chief Harold Clark, Southington Fire Department.

Crews are assessing the ground water situation in the area. Samples were taken in the Quinnipiac River basin as well as its sediment.

Light Metals said it was able to recover some of the material before it made it into the river.

However, officials confirmed that some of it spilled into the river.

People fishing in the area were told to catch and release. Local fisheries are also being monitored.

"Basically avoid the riverbank regardless," said Jeff Chandler, Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. 

DEEP said it was on the scene along with Southington fire crews, the Coast Guard and the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

Jeff Chandler of DEEP said they're looking at a fourth of a mile of the river. DEEP hired Clean Harbors for the cleanup task.

There is no airborne threat, but DEEP said it's monitoring that front.

"It's a carcinogen. It is absorbable by the skin, you can inhale the dust, it can be ingested, all will cause problems," Chandler said.

Fire officials said 350 gallons of hexavalent chromium, which is widely used in various industries, spilled. They said three types of different metals are mixed in it.

DEEP said it expected to be out there all day on Thursday.

According to DEEP, workers noticed the leak Wednesday night in a boiler line that led to a chromium tank.

"It's a difficult product. There's no way to neutralize it. We've actually had to excavate the entire area of roadway. We are going to be removing approximately 5,000 square feet of the roof of the building," explained Kenneth LeClerc of DEEP.

Two drinking wells in Southington were shut down. The town water supply is not expected to be affected by the spill.

"There's no impact on the drinking water," Clark said. "It all stayed in the storm system and some of it did discharge into the Quinnipiac water basin."

Health officials, including superintendent Frederick Rogers and director Shane Lockwood, reiterated that in a statement.

We are confident the Town of Southington’s emergency response team has the situation under control and that there will be no adverse impact to the Town of Southington’s drinking water supply.  However, as a safeguard [Southington Water Department] will be conducting a series of water quality samples to ensure the water supply remains safe for consumption.

Throughout last night, and continuing throughout this response, air, water and soil sampling have been conducted around the site of the spill. At this time, we are confident that every action has been taken to protect the public health and the environment.

DEEP also said there is no public health risk and that town drinking water is being tested out of an abundance of caution.

"It has some hazards to the public but not in this form," LeClerc said. "It's contained. We've been monitoring it. We've kept it secured."

Officials said not to eat fish from the Quinnipiac River in Southington because of the spill.

“We recommend that people not eat any fish taken from the Quinnipiac between Queen Street and Rt. 10 in Southington until we have an opportunity to determine the extent of any lingering contamination in the river resulting from a chemical release yesterday.” said DEEP Deputy Commissioner Susan Whalen.

Hexavalent chromium can cause skin irritation and affect organs over the long term. The chemicals can be absorbed through the skin.

Its compounds are used in paints, dyes and plastics.

According to Light Metals' website, 100 people work there.

Eyewitness News has not reached anyone with the company for comment.

Stay updated with Eyewitness News as more information becomes available.

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