On Sunday, June 9, 2019 the Shoemakersville Fire Company, Berks County Department of Emergency Services and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) responded to a release of nitric acid at the Bulk Chemicals, Inc. (BCI) facility located on Mohrsville Road in Shoemakersville, Perry Township. An estimated 2200 gallons of 62% nitric acid was released from a storage tank due to equipment failure. The tank is located inside a facility building, however the spill was not fully contained within the building and an unknown quantity of nitric acid was released to the ground. Berks County emergency responders were able to secure the release by transferring the remaining nitric acid from the failed storage tank to a competent holding tank. Cleanup contractors hired by BCI then began to conduct a cleanup of the facility.
The following morning, Monday June 10th, a fire started in the same building damaging another holding tank containing treated waste water. The Shoemakersville Fire Company responded quickly. Once the fire was fully extinguished, BCI's contractors resumed cleanup activities to address the inside of the building and the release that occurred to the ground outside the building.
Given the volume of the chemicals remaining in the building and the conditions at the facility following the nitric release and fire, PADEP requested EPA’s assistance. EPA OSCs arrived at the Site Monday, June 10th. Since arriving on the scene, EPA and PADEP have been coordinating with local agencies and BCI to assess conditions at the facility and are overseeing stabilization and cleanup efforts being conducted by BCI and its contractors.
Local officials temporarily evacuated residents in the immediate area during the initial nitric acid release and again during the fire to ensure their health and safety. Residents have since returned home. Since Tuesday June 11th, EPA has been conducting continuous air quality monitoring to ensure the safety of the nearby community and on-site workers. To confirm that they were not impacted by the release, EPA is also conducting limited sampling of drinking water wells at adjacent properties.