By Rolf Boone, January 29, 2015, The Olympian
The Port of Olympia and businesses within a quarter mile of the port’s marine terminal were evacuated for about three hours Wednesday after a hydrogen peroxide spill sent plumes of steam billowing up from the port yard and city streets.
The chemical, which is used to treat stormwater at the port’s new facility, leaked from a 3,300 gallon storage tank that serves the facility.
About 20 port employees were evacuated before noon, and the area reopened after 3 p.m.
Port of Olympia staff, the state Department of Ecology and a private contractor were on scene late Wednesday to address the spill.
“The Department of Ecology will determine the severity of the spill and any adverse impacts to the marine area,” Olympia deputy fire chief Greg Wright said in a news release. “There are no drinking water concerns as the result of this spill. The white vapor seen issuing from the spill and stormwater system was vapor.”
Hydrogen peroxide can be harmful, said Krista Kenner, a spokeswoman for Ecology, adding that it can burn skin in certain concentrations. However, she wasn’t aware of the health concerns posed by hydrogen peroxide in vapor form.
Still, area organizations were prepared for the worst.
Thurston County Food Bank, which is not far from the port, put its evacuation response on standby, organizing employees into teams, said Robert Coit, executive director.
“Our biggest concern was that there was something that could cause respiratory challenges or discomfort,” he said.
The Hands On Children’s Museum did not evacuate because police and fire officials said the museum was outside the quarter-mile zone, spokeswoman Jillian Henze said.
Wright said that several businesses were asked to evacuate, while another six to eight were asked to shelter employees indoors.
Olympia Fire was assisted by Tumwater and Thurston County fire districts 3, 8 and 9. A hazmat team was dispatched from Pierce County. Olympia Fire also coordinated the response with Olympia Police, the city’s Public Works Department, the port, Ecology and the U.S. Coast Guard, according to the release.
The port’s $11.5 million stormwater treatment facility opened late last year. Gov. Jay Inslee participated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new system in December.