Oshkosh Chemical Spill Leaves Giant Cloud Over City, Forces Evacuations

An Oshkosh chemical spill has left a giant caustic cloud floating over the Wisconsin city and forced widescale evacuations.

Reports said 60,000 to 70,000 pounds of muriatic acid spilled at Hydrite Chemical, leading officials to order an evacuation of the Oshkosh Corp. manufacturing plant and company headquarters. The company, formerly known as Oshkosh truck, is the leading manufacturer of specialty vehicles.

The Oshkosh chemical spill also left a chemical cloud floating over the south side of the city.

Muriatic acid, which is sometimes referred to as hydrochloric acid, is extremely corrosive and can be damaging to human tissue, including the respiratory organs, eyes, skins, and intestines. In extreme cases it can cause blindness or even death.

Most commonly, the vapors of muriatic acid can cause coughing, shortness of breath, and sores in the respiratory track followed by fluid buildup.

Though dangerous, muriatic acid spills are somewhat common in industrial settings. Last year a 4,700-gallon spill in northeastern Pennsylvania, flowing into a nearby creek and causing a small fish kill. Officials were able to build a dam to keep the acid from flowing into a larger creek.

Workers at a nearby business first alerted authorities to the Oshkosh chemical spill when they reported burning eyes.

After police discovered the source of the spill, they ordered evacuations in an area that stretched from West Waukau to Perimeter Road to West 28th Street, where Hydrite Chemical Company is located. People located north of the spill were asked to stay inside their homes and keep windows and doors shut.

The evacuation order was lifted by the Oshkosh Fire Department close to three hours after the spill was first reported. There are close to 160,000 people in the Oshkosh metro area, and it wasn’t reported how may were evacuated in all.

There was no word whether there were any injuries as a result of the Oshkosh chemical spill.