San Diego

Chemical Spill Leads to Evacuations in National City

Residents were evacuated from homes within a two-block radius around 17th and 18th streets

A chemical spill at business in National City Thursday prompted mandatory evacuations for some surrounding businesses and residents, fire officials confirmed.

Just after 8:35 a.m., the National City Fire Department (NCPD) said a hazardous materials situation was unfolding at ProChem Specialty Products, a business located at 112 East 18th Street, near National City Boulevard.

By 9:15 a.m., fire crews had been able to find the source of the problem: a barrel that was off-gassing oxidizer, spilling the chemical into the neighborhood.

According to NCFD Battalion Chief Sergio Mora, the spill happened as employees at the business performed a routine task that entailed mixing four chemicals to make a product that was later going to be distributed to a water treatment facility.

Employees were mixing up two 55-gallon batches. One batch was mixed without a problem, the other experienced a chemical reaction, causing the spill.

Hazardous Materials officials were called in to investigate.

As a precaution, to avoid potential inhalation or contact with the chemicals, evacuations ordered for residents within a four-block radius on 17th and 18th streets, east of National City Boulevard and west of B Street.

The National City Police Department (NCPD) said 104 people who live or work in the area were contacted via the community's emergency alert system. A temporary evacuation shelter was established at Sweetwater High School's Old Gym at 2900 Highland Ave.

About 10 minutes after the spill was reported, authorities notified four schools in the area about the incident. Faculty at Otis Elementary School and National City Middle School were told to keep students inside classrooms.

As of 11:30 a.m., about 40 people were still evacuated, unable to go back their home or workplace. Officials said no one had used the evacuation shelter.

Wilfredo Mack was visiting his friend in National City Thursday when they realized something was amiss. Soon, they heard that a chemical was spilling from a barrel and were told by authorities to evacuate.

“They said it is hazardous and told us to stay out of there,” he explained.

Mack said he saw white smoke coming from the site of the spill and it appeared as if a fire had erupted at the business on 18th Street. At first, he couldn’t smell anything but later said he smelled a faint odor.

Mora said no one was injured in the incident. Ultimately, Mora said the effect of the spill was “less toxic than being downwind from a garage fire.”

Drivers were asked to avoid the area while police officers helped with traffic control. Officials hoped to have the situation cleaned up and allow people back into their homes by 1:30 p.m.

Officials said the company is responsible for the cleanup. The business hired a company to help with the process, which was still underway as of 12:45 p.m.

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