AN accident witnessed, acid leaking from a 30 metric-tonne tanker late night on Wednesday, the May 27, near Chandni Chowk, Pune. The incident took place about 10 km away from CSIR-National Chemical Laboratory (CSIR-NCL) campus. This created panic among the local residents and people working nearby, as it caused breathing problems and irritation in the eyes. CSIR-NCL team came for rescue on the spot after coordination from the Police Control Room.
The leakage chemical was identified as acetic acid, which has a boiling point of 118 °C, is highly corrosive and toxic on inhalation, and its vapour can be flammable. A team of about twelve scientists and technical staff led by Prof Ashwini Kumar Nangia, Director, CSIR-NCL reached the site at around 11:30 pm with a truck loaded with Ammonium Bicarbonate (ABC) which was available at CSIR-NCL. The team controlled the leaking vapours and smell of acetic acid by throwing lumps of ABC powder on the surface of leaking chemical and on all the sides of the transporting vehicle every 15 to 20 minutes for the next 5 hours. The difficult challenge was to make sure that the leaking acid from the tanker was periodically kept neutralized by adding base ABC. At around 2 am, a team of company and transport people came to transfer the acetic acid to another tanker with the help of police and fire brigade people. The situation was stable and kept under control by the team present who continued to neutralize acetic acid with ABC till all of the acetic acids from the leaking tanker was transferred to another vessel by early morning. Prof. Ashwini Kumar Nangia said that “had the spreading of acetic acid vapours continued till morning without neutralization, the situation could have been very serious and hazardous for people in the neighbouring areas”. He added, “We had several tonnes of ABC chemical available lying from last year, which is used for eco-friendly POP Ganesh idols immersion. This was a fortunate coincidence which came in readily handy”. CSIR-NCL team visited the site again next morning at 9:30 am and guided in final clean-up of the accident site which was completed successfully by the fire brigade team and police.