Acid spill leads to evacuation of Columbus plant

Note: This story has been updated

An acid spill Thursday morning led to a lengthy evacuation of Rightway Fasteners in the Walesboro area and traffic snarls nearby.

According to the Columbus Fire Department, firefighters were called to the factory on South International Drive at about 9:40 a.m. about a large chemical spill in the building. What they found was a small spill in a chemical locker of a potentially explosive picric acid.

Capt. Mike Wilson with the fire department explains:

The building was evacuated and South International Drive was shut down.

About 200 employees were working at the factory when it was shut down and many had to leave their car keys and personal belongings inside while the situation unfolded.

Wilson said that the bomb squad slowly and delicately moved the entire storage locker outside where a trench was dug, road flares were added to the pit and the chemicals were then burned.

An environmental services company contracted by Rightway Fasteners will collect the unburned materials and sample the burn site to make sure no dangerous chemicals remain.

The entire operation took about five hours.

According to the fire department,  picric acid is a compound commonly used in the production of explosives , matches and electric batteries. It is also used to etch copper and used in the manufacturing of colored glass. Rightway representatives said that previously, the acid was used during quality testing processes.


Photo courtesy of Columbus Fire Department