Spill prompts alarm activation

Emergency personnel stand by outside the Rhodia chemical plant on the King Street Extension after a chemical spill Tuesday morning. An alarm was sounded in the neighboring Rosemont community warning residents of the spill.

Officials have cleaned up a small phosphorus trichloride leak at a King Street Extension chemical plant.

An alarm sounded at the Rhodia Chemical plant at 9:05 a.m. Tuesday, said Mark Ruppel, Charleston Fire Department public information officer.

Rhodia employees were starting operations after a weekend shutdown when an employee noticed the chemical leaking from one of the pipelines, said plant manager David Hardin. A crew turned off the flow to the pipeline within a couple of minutes and activated the alarm notifying the plant and the neighboring Rosemont community to take shelter.

About 50 employees as well as community residents were advised about the leak. No one was injured. The advisory was called off about 10 a.m.

The department's Hazmat team responded and assisted employees with the cleanup of the spill, Ruppel said. Officials say phosphorus trichloride turns into hydrochloric acid when mixed with water.

Hardin said the leak was contained without injury.

Phosphorus trichloride is used to make pharmaceuticals and flame-retardant sleepwear for children.

The plant was the site of the city's worst chemical disaster in its history in 1991 when nine people died and dozens more were injured. A community plan was setup following the disaster. Rhodia bought the plant nearly a decade later. In 2001, about 30 pounds of phosphorous trichloride were spilled, producing a cloud of hydrochloric acid. In that incident, 10 people were taken to the hospital.