AUBURN, Maine — State and private environmental officials went to Savage Safe Handling facility on Rodman Road on Friday evening after 500 to 600 gallons of a sodium hydroxide, or lye, solution spilled into surrounding wetlands Friday evening.
Auburn firefighters were called to the 200-acre rail yard and manufacturing site at about 5 p.m. to assess the spill, Battalion Chief Scott Hunter said Saturday.
“Originally, [the sodium hydroxide] had gone into a container on a rail car, where there’s a pit that, should that happen, it should contain it, but the plug to seal that container off was not in place, and it did drain from that pit into a wetland area,” Hunter said.
Sodium hydroxide, also known as lye or caustic soda, can cause burns to eyes, skin and the respiratory system, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
“It’s very corrosive,” Hunter said. “If it gets on you, it will eat your flesh off … They do have quite a few chemicals out there that are really bad. Fortunately, this one, as long as you don’t touch it, is fairly safe.”
The spill was confined to a wetland area, and firefighters controlled access to that area to prevent any injuries from happening.
David Madore, spokesman for the Maine DEP, said Saturday afternoon that the 50 percent sodium hydroxide solution was “neutralized” with muriatic acid, and DEP would return to the spill site for follow-up work and additional monitoring.
According to the company’s website, Savage Safe Handling operates the largest rail-to-truck transloading facilities in New England and Western Pennsylvania.