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Chemical spill closes schools
Forklift punctures container filled with hydrochloric acid
Chemical spill DSC 5657 copy
Incident Commander Manteca Fire Department Battalion Chief David Marques stands on the lift deck of a utility truck . - photo by GLENN KAHL/The Bulletin

Classes resume today at Manteca High, Lincoln Elementary School, and St. Paul’s Preschool following the rupture of a 330-gallon tank filled with hydrochloric acid at the Mountain Valley Express freight terminal in the Manteca Industrial Park.
The incident occurred at 11:39 p.m. Wednesday when a forklift punctured a container holding the acid. Employees applied absorbent, called 9-1-1, and evacuated the building according to Manteca Police Lt. Jody Estarziau. 
The nearby high school and elementary campus were closed as a preventative measure by the City of Manteca Fire Department and Manteca Unified School District. The closure was agreed upon to ensure a large scale evacuation would not be needed if the wind direction changed or condition at the chemical spill worsened.
Severe burns can occur if contact is made with the corrosive acid. If it is inhaled or swallowed it could be deadly or cause lung damage.

The San Joaquin County Environmental Health hazardous materials team was first called to the scene and later replaced by a private hazmat firm out of Fresno, Patriot Environmental Services.  The Manteca Fire Department’s hazmat team stood by at the scene in case any of the white-suited workers happened to be overcome by the acid fumes in the process of the cleanup.
Manteca Fire Department’s fire marshal Lantz Rey said the cleanup included the inspection of any freight that might have been affected by the acid in the warehouse building attached to the loading docks at the freight firm at 1019 Bessemer Ave. There were no injuries in the incident that closed down several streets until 5:58 p.m. Wednesday. The “shelter in place” order for nearby firms was in place until the directive was lifted at 8 a.m. by emergency response officials. Police, fire and hazmat personnel were on site for 18.5 hours.
Due to the proximity of the Manteca Transit station to the spill Manteca Transit service was suspended for the day as was one Regional Transit bus line. The Manteca Transit Center will return to business as usual today.
Road closures Thursday morning included:
Moffat Boulevard between Main Street and Powers Avenue.
Carnegie Avenue and Carnegie Court.
East Wetmore Avenue, east of South Main Street.
Mellon Avenue, north of Industrial Park Drive.
Bessemer Avenue, north of Industrial Park Drive.

“Thankfully, there were no injuries involved. All emergency and company personnel are on site handling the situation,” the company posted on it website about the incident.
The Mountain Valley Express announcement added, “We anticipate that our Manteca service center will be unavailable for all deliveries today (Thursday) and the service center to be closed to all our personnel until late morning hours. We are attempting to be available for pickups in and around that facility this afternoon. Any personnel located in Manteca will not be available by desk phone or email until the afternoon hours.”
Manteca City Councilman Richard Silverman, who monitored the situation from the time it came to his attention right after Fire Department personnel responded, was impressed with the way city and other personnel responded and was relieved that nothing worse came as a result of the spill accident.
“Our city employees did a very complete professional job with an abundance of caution. I am very pleased with how all the city departments and volunteers worked so well as a team to protect the community,” he said.
Speaking from his position as a member of the Fire Department volunteer group, Seniors Assisting Fire efforts or SAFE, he happily added, “And I had a good front seat, plus I made sure they all knew council was prepared to provide whatever additional resources that might have been needed. Glad we did not need to evacuate residents or set up shelters but we were ready to do so.”
Early Thursday morning, Manteca Unified Superintendent Jason Messer was notified by the Manteca Police Department about the chemical spill that occurred in the vicinity of Manteca High and Lincoln Elementary. School notices involving automated phone calls and social media alerts went out immediately.
“The superintendent, as a precautionary decision, advises students stay at home.... Student safety is our number one priority. We anticipate school will resume (today) without incident,” said Victoria Brunn, the district’s Director of Outreach and Innovative Programs.
“As student safety is our number one priority, the decision was made to close both school sites due to concerns of an evacuation if necessary. School will resume in the morning. There is not a health concern and therefore all staff is on site to assist. School site principals and staff were prepared and responded immediately,” Messer stated.
St. Paul’s Preschool, on its Facebook page, announced that Manteca Unified informed them about the chemical spill and thought it wise to close for the today as well following the district’s decision to cancel its two nearby school sites.
“Due to our proximity to both campuses, we will close as a precautionary measure,” St. Paul’s stated.