Officials in Lubbock Work to Stop Chemical Leak

By Betsy Blaney | May 10, 2013

Hazardous materials experts have begun work to stop a chemical leak at an agricultural company in West Texas that forced the evacuation of about 100 families from their homes, Lubbock fire officials said Thursday.

Nobody has been hurt and the evacuation that began Wednesday evening continued in a zone extending several blocks around the facility where the leaking tank sets, Lubbock Fire Marshal spokesman Robert Loveless said.

There was no estimate on how long it might take to stop the leak, he said.

The Lubbock school district cancelled classes at a nearby elementary school because streets around it were closed, spokeswoman Nancy Sharp said.

Investigators are trying to determine what caused the leak at Bayer CropScience near Interstate 27. Company employees noticed a leak from an apparent faulty valve on a tank.

Loveless said the leak involves hydrogen chloride, which when released and exposed to moisture in the air forms hydrochloric acid. The vapor is heavier than air and will sink or be dispersed by winds, he said.

The tank that’s leaking has a 3,000-pound capacity and is under pressure and the gas is not explosive, he said.

“It’s still a pressurized vessel and deserves respect” as to its potential for danger, Loveless said.

Bayer CropScience spokesman Monty Christian said the chemical is used to remove lint from cotton seed but can be corrosive to skin and lungs.

Christian says the leaking cylinder is from AirGas that is providing hazmat experts.

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