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Penguin chemical spill update

17 November 2010

The Environment Protection Authority has advised that chemicals spilled in a train derailment near Penguin early today are likely to pose minimal environmental threat.

Acting EPA Director John Mollison said a quantity of sodium hydroxide and potassium hydroxide leaked on to the foreshore and into Bass Strait from a container dislodged from the derailed freight train.

“EPA officers took samples to determine the pH of the water and to ascertain how far the chemical plume moved from the impact site,” Mr Mollison said.

“Results of those tests showed a slightly elevated pH but well within acceptable limits. The chemicals diluted with the sea water and dispersed fairly quickly.

“The quantity of chemicals involved in the incident will not be known until the container is unpacked late today or tomorrow.”

Mr Mollison said sea water had a good buffering capacity against changes in pH.

However, in significant quantities strong alkalis like sodium hydroxide and potassium hydroxide had the potential to affect marine life by raising the pH of the water and causing chemical burns.

Potassium hydroxide and sodium hydroxide have a wide application, including the manufacture of cleaning agents.

A second container dislodged on to the foreshore in the derailment contained fish food. Although damaged, the container remained intact.