56 people treated for possible chemical exposure after sulfur dioxide leak

Jun 19, 2019, 10:36 AM | Updated: 5:11 pm
sulfur dioxide chemical spill...
Crews responded to Thatcher Chemical in Salt Lake City for a possible spill, which turned out to be hundreds of gallons of sulfur dioxide. Photo: Mary Richards, KSL

SALT LAKE CITY — 56 people have been treated for possible exposure to the chemical sulfur dioxide after an accident involving a rail car at an area business.

The Salt Lake City Fire Department said between 300 and 400 gallons of the toxic substance leaked at Thatcher Chemical, near 1900 W. 1200 S.

Of the 56 people who were treated for possible symptoms, just two wound up being transported to area hospitals for further attention due to exposure.

Photo: Mary Richards, KSL Photo: Mary Richards, KSL Photo: Mary Richards, KSL

Reporters and other witnesses in the area said there was a strong “rotten egg” smell in the air. Officials said a rail car bumped into the hose of another car, spraying the chemical into the air and a retaining pond. It was not believed to have gotten into a nearby canal.

The Environmental Protection Agency says sulfur dioxide exposure in the air can damage the respiratory system and make breathing difficult. It can be used as a preservative and antioxidant in foods.

The EPA’s risk management database says Thatcher Chemical produces water treatment chemicals, including ammonia, chlorine and sulfur dioxide. At the time their last report was filed with the agency, the facility had 3,830,000 pounds of the substance on site.

The Department of Environmental Quality says this is not the first time this company has had spills or accidents.  Over the course of 29 years, they’ve found 12 accidents connected to Thatcher.  That may sound like a lot, but, DEQ Spokesman Jared Mendenhall says that’s less than one accident per year.

“It doesn’t necessarily raise a red flag.  There will be an investigation.  We will go out and take a look at what happened,” he says.

One of the more notable accidents happened in 1991, when a tanker coupler broke loose and spilled thousands of gallons of sulfur dioxide spilled.  Others include a tank explosion in 2004 and a cloud of sulfur dioxide being released in 1997.

Mendenhall says they were concerned about water in a nearby canal being contaminated, so, water quality crews checked it out.

“Their initial report, right now, is that that hasn’t been any issue or any compromise to that canal,” he adds.

Today’s Top Stories


Pfeifferhorn Avalanche...
Alexandrea Bonilla

Utah Avalanche Awareness Week is underway

To promote safety while recreating at Utah's ski resorts, the Utah Avalanche Center is holding it's fourth annual Avalanche Awareness Week.
8 hours ago
Hari Bastakoti shovels a sidewalk following a snowstorm in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022...
Chandler Holt

After a cold November, Utah prepares for another storm

After a colder November than years past, a cold front (potentially bringing storm conditions) is on the horizon for Utah.
1 day ago
Image of the crash that killed two people in West Valley City on 12/3/22 (Photo courtesy of Doris S...
Chandler Holt

2 dead after crash into parked box truck

Two people died following a crash into a parked box truck in West Valley City on Saturday. 
1 day ago
(Photo courtesy of Snowbird Ski Resort)...
Chandler Holt

Avalanche at Snowbird caused by skier, no injuries

On Saturday, an avalanche roared down the slopes at Snowbird Ski Resort. Several people were caught and carried by the avalanche, but no one was buried.
1 day ago
A west valley police car is pictured. Police are investigating a hit and run...
Mark Jones

Fire in West Valley City home contained to one room in basement

A fire inside a West Valley City home Friday was contained to one room in the basement, according to fire officials on scene.
3 days ago
Authorities in Washington County are investigating the discovery of the body of a 36-year-old man e...
Mark Jones

Staff member at school in southern Utah arrested for alleged sexual abuse

A 22-year-old staff member of a school in southern Utah was arrested Thursday by the Washington County Sheriff's Office for alleged sexual abuse.
3 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Spicy Homemade Loaded Taters Tots...

5 game day snacks for the whole family (with recipes!)

Try these game day snacks to make watching football at home with your family feel like a special occasion. 
Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...

The best tools for Deaf and hard-of-hearing workplace success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
christmas decorations candles in glass jars with fir on a old wooden table...
Western Nut Company

12 Mason Jar Gift Ideas for the 12 Days of Christmas [with recipes!]

There are so many clever mason jar gift ideas to give something thoughtful to your neighbors or friends. Read our 12 ideas to make your own!
wide shot of Bear Lake with a person on a stand up paddle board...

Pack your bags! Extended stays at Bear Lake await you

Work from here! Read our tips to prepare for your extended stay, whether at Bear Lake or somewhere else nearby.
young boy with hearing aid...

Accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing

These different types of accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing can help them succeed in school.
56 people treated for possible chemical exposure after sulfur dioxide leak