Earthquake in Utah causes chemical spill at Kennecott plant, but no danger to public health

Mar 18, 2020, 7:02 PM | Updated: Mar 19, 2020, 7:36 am
Earthquake in Utah causes chemical spill at Kennecott plant, but no danger to public health...
(Fire and hazmat crews stationed at a command post by Saltair, ready to go to Kennecott if needed. Credit: Paul Nelson)
(Fire and hazmat crews stationed at a command post by Saltair, ready to go to Kennecott if needed. Credit: Paul Nelson)

MAGNA – People living near a smelting facility owned by Kennecott can breathe easier.  The 5.7 magnitude earthquake in Utah caused a chemical spill that sent a visible plume into the air.  However, safety officials say any threat to the public has passed.

Officials from Rio Tinto/Kennecott say the Hydrochloric acid spill happened at the refinery, not at the Bingham Canyon Mine, itself.  The spill forced the plant to stop operations, but company representatives say there were no injuries and all of their employees are accounted for.

“We found a 12,000-gallon tank that leaked about 8,200 of that.  Most of it was contained right in a catch basin around the tank,” according to Unified Fire Authority Chief Dan Peterson.

Crews from UFA and even the Utah National Guard were asked to monitor the air quality, but officials say the acid didn’t mix with any other chemical to make a more dangerous compound.  So, the risk to the public was minimal.  However, Peterson says they’re still going to keep an eye on the situation.

“We’re leaving six hazmat crews on site.  We will continue to monitor and make sure there are not other challenges or problems,” he says.

Representatives from the city of Magna say residents have been extremely supportive and checking on each other to see if they’re all right.  However, Salt Lake County Sheriff Rosie Rivera says the best thing people can do now is to stay in their homes.

“If you’re out on the streets and you’re trying to just go out and look at the community, we don’t need that right now,” she says.

Emergency officials say all of the damage reports they’ve seen show damage in Magna was relatively small because of the quake.  However, they expect the aftershocks to continue.  Rivera says people need to continue to be strong when they happen.

“Stay calm.  We need our communities to remain calm in this type of situations,” Rivera says.


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Salt Lake airport reopens hours after 5.7 magnitude earthquake

County emergency management officials address earthquake, response

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Earthquake in Utah causes chemical spill at Kennecott plant, but no danger to public health