Chlorine spill forces street closures

Four containers of chlorine spilled Monday morning onto Delaware Avenue, not far from Central Park, closing off five blocks for close to 10 hours.

San Mateo Police and Fire departments are investigating what caused the spill that happened just before 7:30 a.m. The four yellow plastic containers of pool chlorine — with approximately 2.5 gallons in each — spilled onto the road at Ninth Avenue and South Delaware Street. Fire crews responded to the scene and closed the road between Fourth and Ninth avenues for the cleanup.

The spill limited access to the downtown area from east of Delaware, though an official from Sunnybrae Elementary School one block south did not have any problems with late students or staff. The official, who did not want to be identified, said that a number of parents called the office to make sure the school was open, but no one seemed to have trouble getting to the campus.

Although chlorine can be toxic and commonly used as a disinfectant, Deputy Fire Marshall Bill Euchner said no evacuations from surrounding residences were necessary, although people in the immediate area of the spill were told to remain indoors during the cleanup.

The chlorine was neutralized with citric acid and removed by mid-afternoon. San Mateo police Lt. Mike Brunicardi said the department is still trying to find out what caused the spill, and whether it was simply a case of containers falling offthe back of a truck during traffic.

If the owner of the chlorine is located, and found to have been responsible for the spill, Brunicardi said they could be held financially responsible for the time and man-hours spent by responding emergency crews. In total, three fire engines, a ladder truck, a hazardous-materials engine and a vehicle from the San Mateo County Office of Emergency Services responded to the spill, the first arriving just over a minute after the crash.

Authorities said the spill is not related to the recent acid bomb incident in front of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Redwood City. In the Jan. 6 incident, children outside the church found a 2-liter bottle filled with hydrochloric acid. After they had kicked it, the liquid spurted out of the bottle onto a girl’s leg, melting holes in her nylon clothing but not causing any injuries.

Anyone who witnessed a vehicle losing the containers should notify the San Mateo Police Department at (650) 522-7650.

jgoldman@examiner.com  

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