On Oct. 11, OSC Art Smith was dispatched to respond to an accidental release of sulfur trioxide at the DuPont chemical plant in Wurtland, KY. Plant officials reported that a a leak occurred in a re-boiler about 2:30 p.m., causing the release of sulfur trioxide and oleum (concentrated sulfuric acid). The release forms a cloud consisting of droplets of sulfuric acid when it reacts with air.
The resulting chemical plume traveled in a southwesterly direction from the plant, resulting in the closure of US Highway 23 from Raceland, KY to Greenup, KY. The severity of the incident caused emergency management officials to recommend a shelter-in-place for up to 6,000 people until about 6:00 PM, when the leak was stabilized. While none of the workers at the plant were injured, over 20 people had reported to area hospitals complaining of burning skin and respiratory tract irritation.
The Dupont Wurtland plant experienced a similar incident in 1995. About 1,000 people in the area had to be evacuated.