Three Injured in Acid Spill at Doe Run Smelting Plant in Herculaneum

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HERCULANEUM, MO (KTVI)-- Scary moments Tuesday morning at the Doe Run Company smelting plant in Herculaneum after a pipe full of sulfuric acid broke injuring three workers.

Two had only minor injuries and they were treated and released from nearby hospitals.

One man however was hit in the face with acid. He was airlifted to Mercy Hospital`s burn unit in St. Louis.

But a firefighter at the scene said those facial burns were apparently not the ambulance crew`s most immediate concern.

"Anytime you have a burn to the face you are always concerned about the airway because things swell up real bad on you and getting that airway secured in essential to maintaining their life and survivability," said Capt. Kevin Baker of the Herculaneum Fire Department. "The patient started feeling some tightness so the ambulance district decided to (put a breathing tube) in him and transfered him to St. Louis."

There was no update Tuesday night about the identity of that man or his condition.

According to the company, the trouble started when workers went to check on a small leak in a storage line carrying sulfuric acid.

In a written statement, Gary Hughes, General Manager of the smelting division explains what happened next.

"It appears that during the course of the inspection, an employee may have accidentally come into contact with the line and the connection broke apart... The damaged line has been isolated, and there is no further risk to other employees or the environment. The incident is under investigation."

The plant has had environmental safety issues for years, which is why the company is closing it the end of this year. Plans are to turn the site and 450 acres around it into a port and business park.
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