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Kraft spill contained at East Woburn facility

WOBURN - Kraft/Atlantic Gelatin officials notified the Fire Department and state and federal environmental officials after they determined a spill of the chemical sulfuric acid had occurred at the East Woburn facility yesterday.

Cathy Pernu, spokeswoman for Kraft, said today the spill occurred when a back-up safety system failed and a pipe with a valve allowed some sulfuric acid to leak out into the ground.

The leak was contained on Kraft/Atlantic Gelatin property, she said. All proper notifications were made and the ground that was contaminated with diluted sulfuric acid "will be removed and disposed of in an appropriate manner."

Both Pernu and Fire Chief Paul Tortolano said an above-ground storage tank was being loaded yesterday morning when it was overfilled.

The tank has proper containment systems, and is surrounded by a dike system that contains any spillage.

In the afternoon, however, it was discovered that the level in the dike system was going down, Pernu said.

At that point, according to regulations and procedures, Kraft/Atlantic Gelatin notified local, state and federal environmental officials, Pernu said.

Firefighters from Woburn and Stoneham responded. Tortolano said Capt. Denis Devine was in charge of the scene, and, as the department is certified as a first responder in "haz-mat" (hazardous material) incidents, opted to notify state environmental officials rather than call in the regional haz-mat team after evaluating the situation.

Tortolano noted the storm drain system was tested to see if any of the sulfuric acid had escaped that way, but nothing was detected.

Pernu said it was discovered that the sulfuric acid was going down a pipe with a valve that had apparently failed, leaking out the sulfuric acid into the ground.

The plant has a very good safety system, Pernu said. Officials were not sure why the failure occurred, she said, but it is being investigated.

"We're certainly very concerned about our employees and the environment," she said.

Tortolano said Kraft/Atlantic Gelatin has a good history and working relationship with the department and made all the proper notifications as the problem was discovered.

Sulfuric acid, indeed any acid, is a corrosive substance, Pernu said. The company uses it to adjust the pH of its waste water.

-- Doris (, September 28, 2000

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