Chemical leak at Atwater Village prompts evacuation, hazardous materials response


A chemical leak at an industrial facility in Atwater Village sparked a hazardous materials response Thursday, sending a massive plume of foul-smelling smoke into the air over northeast LA

Two people went to a nearby hospital with possibly related breathing problems, although an air quality expert noted it could take 24 hours after exposure for eye, skin and respiratory symptoms to develop.

Los Angeles Fire Department spokeswoman Margaret Stewart said the incident was reported to Huntsman Chemical at 4541 W. Electronics Place around 8:40 a.m.

Officials initially said the incident happened after a small valve ruptured, but as of Thursday night the exact cause remained unclear. A spokesman for the South Coast Air Quality Management District said the agency believes it may have been a chemical reaction rather than a leak.

according to a Hazardous Substance Spill Report by the California Office of Emergency Services, a rupture disk was released while packaging an epoxy product called Reninfusion 8610, which “spilled a small amount of the product onto the concrete floor and released smoke into the atmosphere.”

It is not known how full the 1,000-gallon vessel was when the incident occurred and an investigation into the cause is ongoing, the report said.

Gary Chapman, vice president of global communications at Texas-based Huntsman Corp., said via email that Reninfusion 8610 “is used as an adhesive or sealant in a variety of industrial applications” and stressed that “there is no health risk due to today’s Restriction gives product venting.”

By early afternoon, the incident was contained and no firefighters or hazmat officers were at the scene.

“There was no fire, no explosion, no injuries and no medical complaints,” said Stewart, spokeswoman for the LAFD.

However, pictures and videos posted online showed a massive white cloud over the areawith one uploader describing a “strong electrical smell,” and nearby Glendale Memorial Hospital acknowledged treating two patients whose symptoms may have been linked to the incident.

“They came in complaining of respiratory problems,” said Christina Zicklin, a spokeswoman for Glendale Memorial Hospital. Both patients were discharged, said Zicklin, but could not provide any further information.

An air quality expert said it could take a day or longer for symptoms from exposure to Reninfusion 8610 to appear, and children and those with asthma may be more sensitive.

“These are early hours,” said Michael Kleinman, a professor in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Medicine at UC Irvine.

After reviewing the safety disclosure information for Reninfusion 8610, Kleinman said the chemicals in the product may cause eye, skin, or respiratory irritation and some people may become allergic after exposure to the chemicals.

“If you start to see progressive symptoms and you think it might be exposure related, then it’s time to think about at least getting it checked out by a doctor,” he said.

Kleinman also noted that a chemical reaction can create new compounds that are potentially more toxic than those in the original product. But without knowing more details about what happened at Huntsman Chemical or if high temperatures were involved, Kleinman said it was too early to jump to conclusions.

Not far from Huntsman Chemical, employees at a Kaiser Permanente facility on Electronics Place also reported a terrible smell.

“The smoke was so heavy it felt like it was coming from the parking lot,” said an employee, who asked to speak anonymously because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

“It smelled like burnt plastic or burnt wire. I went outside to see what exactly it was and saw a large plume of smoke,” the clerk said at around 8:45 a.m. “I walked around the building to see what it was and the smoke was even thicker. It came from a little less than a block away. The smell in the building was pretty bad.”

Huntsman spokeswoman Tara Mullee said that “limited product venting occurred at our resin manufacturing facility in Los Angeles after a mixing tank overheated.”

Mullee said the site was evacuated as a precaution and that “there were no environmental impacts to report as a result of product venting.”

Stewart similarly said that gas meters used by hazmat specialists “did not register readings that were of concern.”

However, officials also advised residents in areas affected by the dissipating cloud to reach out for help if they have concerns or have medical problems.

“In the event of skin contact, the individual should rinse their skin thoroughly with soap and water,” said Chapman, Huntsman’s vice president. “If product is inhaled, the individual should move to fresh air.”

An investigation is being conducted by Los Angeles County Health Hazardous Materials and the South Coast Air Quality Management District, Stewart said.

“As with any air quality event, if you are affected by smoke or odors, we advise staying indoors with windows and doors closed,” said Kim White, spokeswoman for the South Coast Air Quality Management District.

The public can report odors or other air quality issues to 1-800-CUT-SMOG or report an air quality event online at aqmd.gov/complaintShe added.

https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-03-17/chemical-spill-in-atwater-village-prompts-evacuation-hazmat-response Chemical leak at Atwater Village prompts evacuation, hazardous materials response

Dais Johnston

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