MSU Power Plant sulfuric acid spill leads to day-long cleanup

(WLNS) – The MSU Power Plant reported almost 800 gallons of sulfuric acid had spilled in the plant basement around 8:30 a.m.

East Lansing Police and the Department of Environmental Health and Safety responded to start working to clean it up, and evacuate workers, a little before 9 Tuesday morning.

MSU Spokesman Jason Cody has confirmed the cause of the spill was from a leak in a valve, connecting an outside tank of acid to the tank in the basement of the plant.

The impact sulfuric acid can have on people’s health and the structure and equipment inside can be a serious matter.

As soon as the MSU Power Plant knew of the spill, the first step was to stop the flow of the acid from the outside tank into the inside day tank in the basement.

“The spill was immediately contained, proper notifications were made to East Lansing Fire Department and Environmental Health and Safety,” Michigan State University Police Captain Doug Monette said.

From there, crews have worked through the day to clean up the spill, and plan to test the air before letting workers back in because of the sulfur trioxide released in the air because of the spill, which can cause serious health problems if inhaled.

“If the gas is around and someone breathes it in, then it creates that acid in your lungs and can cause lung damage,” Michigan State university Chemistry Coordinator Dr. Joe Ward said.

Dr. Joe Ward with the Michigan State University Chemistry Department says sulfuric acid is corrosive and not only damages people’s lungs, but also could end up dissolving the concrete, and possibly other metals such as the tank, in the basement.

Dr. Ward believes the crews on the scene are well trained to respond to these situations.

“They know how long it is going to take, they know how to do it, and they do a fantastic job as quickly as possible,” Dr. Ward said.

Cody expects crews to wrap up cleanup Tuesday night or Wednesday morning.

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