Sunday 21 August 2016

Alabama river hit by sulphuric acid spill.

The Alabama Department of Environmental Management is investigating after over 560 litres of sulphuric acid was released from a poultry rendering plant into the Mulberry Fork River at Hanceville in Cullman County on Wednesday 17 August 2016. The spill reportedly occurred at the American Proteins plant at about 4.00 pm, after a valve on a containment tank was left open, and resulted in the deaths of large numbers of fish and other aquatic organisms in the river.

Dead Fish in the Mulberry Fork River after the 17 August 2016 sulphuric acid spill. Nelson Brooke/Black Warrior Riverkeeper.

Sulphuric acid, H2SO4, is a highly corrosive dibasic acid (an acid in which each acid molecule can donate two hydrogen ions, making it twice as corrosive as a monobasic acid, such as hydrochloric acid) at the same concentration). At very high concentrations it will react with water (fortunately the acid that entered the Mulberry Fork was already diluted by rainwater), and when diluted remains highly corrosive. Spills of such an acid are, obviously, extremely harmful to anything in the immediate vicinity, though because it is so highly reactive it seldom persists in the environment (though reactions of sulphuric acid often give rise to other sulphur compounds that are themselves harmful).

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