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Fuming muriatic acid spill closes Williamson Valley Road
Firefighters use sodium bicarbonate to neutralize the chemical

An acid spill right outside Prescott Fire Department’s headquarters at 1700 Iron Springs Road closed Williamson Valley Road for about an hour Monday night, Feb. 18.

Around 8:15 p.m., PFD’s dispatch was notified that a truck passing by the station had leaked about one-and-a-half gallons of muriatic acid onto the roadway, said PFD firefighter and paramedic Jeff Jones.

“When it hit the salts in the road, it started to neutralize and fume,” Jones said.

More commonly known as hydrochloric acid, muriatic acid is a very strong corrosive chemical. Contact with the substance can cause severe skin burns or irreversible eye damage and inhaling it can burn the lungs. The chemical has many different commercial and home uses including pool repair and maintenance, which is what the driver of the truck was using it for, Jones said.

Dispatched to the scene were two PFD engines, the department’s interagency hazardous materials truck, Prescott Police Department and a battalion chief.

They decided the best course of action was to neutralize the chemical with about 20 pounds of sodium bicarbonate.

“We have to make sure the pH level of anything that goes into the storm drain is within a pH range,” Jones said.

Too little sodium bicarbonate would leave the chemical too acidic, and too much sodium bicarbonate would make it too base.

Therefore, as they applied sodium bicarbonate, they continuously tested the liquid and eventually reached a neutral pH of 6.5 to 7.

“We actually nailed the pH level like spot on,” Jones said.

They then washed the roadway and cinders were spread to reduce icy conditions before Williamson Valley Road was reopened.

No one was harmed during the operation, Jones said.

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