LAUREL, Miss. - This is a press release from the Jones County Volunteer Fire Department.
A chemical spill in the industrial park near Howard Industries initiated an evacuation and isolation of the area, lasting for several hours. The first report of the spill came in around 9PM on Friday, October 14th. Units from Calhoun Volunteer Fire Department were the first to respond, followed by several other emergency services from across the state. Six thousand gallons of the chemical, hydrochloric acid, leaked into the air and onto the ground surrounding an area close to Howard Industries, prompting the immediate shutdown of the business. Employees due for their shift at the plant were advised to call their supervisors for more information on when Howard's would reopen for operation. Although the chemical spill has directly effected Howard Industries and other businesses in the industrial park, the spill originated from Baker Hughes.
Following the isolation of a 150-yard radius in all directions, HAZMAT crews with Hattiesburg Fire were called to the scene to neutralize the chemical. The HAZMAT crew used a substance called sodium bicarbonate to neutralize the chemical. However, due to the mass quantity of the chemical that was spilled, the process of neutralizing it completely is ongoing. As of 4AM on Saturday, the operation is still underway and is expected to last for several more hours. A HAZMAT crew out of Jackson, Mississippi, is expected to arrive on scene as well to assist with cleanup of the chemical following its neutralization.
Roads leading in and out of the industrial park area were completely shut down and blocked off to all traffic. Motorists were advised to avoid the area and find alternate routes, given the severity of the situation. Units on scene advised that all non-essential personnel had been evacuated safely from the surrounding areas.
Due to very little wind in the area, at this time there is not a concern that the chemical will spread beyond the current isolated zone. An evacuation notice has not been issued for areas outside of the present isolation area.