The City of Lubbock says as of 6 p.m. Thursday, AirGas has removed all of the liquid in the leaking container at 103 Erskine. Also, the pressure that remained in the leaking tank has been reduced to the point where the leak has stopped.
Erskine Street from I-27 to Ash will remain closed during the decontamination process Thursday night. The entire area including Erskine Street should be open by Friday morning.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have been notified of the incident. Both agencies will be visiting the site to ensure it has been properly decontaminated.
The incident began Wednesday evening around 7:40 p.m., when a potentially hazardous gas leak drove families out of their homes. The Lubbock Fire Department worked late into the night to contain the hydrogen chloride leak. On Thursday morning, Dallas hazmat crews arrived to begin cleanup efforts.
At 4 p.m. press conference, Lubbock Fire Marshall Robert Loveless announced that hazmat crews had begun draining gas from the leaky valve into a new tank. Loveless said it could take up to two days to complete the transfer.
He said now that cleanup efforts were underway, the restricted area around the site could be reduced. The new restricted area is bounded by Ash Avenue on the east, I-27 on the west, Erskine Street on the north, and Massengale Drive on the south.
The Fire Marshal said all evacuated residents could return to their homes as soon as the press conference ended, around 4:15 p.m. Loveless said most businesses and schools that had closed down could reopen so only those businesses directly within the new containment zone would remain closed.
Crews believe that the worst of the danger has passed, but they still face a dangerous and tedious task. Even with protective suits and self-contained air supplies, there's a limit to the number of times any given worker can enter the site, so the company who supplied the cylinders, Airgas, will be bringing in workers from all over the state.
Loveless said he believed emergency crews had stepped up to the challenge and that he was extremely pleased with their work.
"No one has been harmed and no property has been damaged. It's been a little bit of an inconvenience but I think that's an excellent trade-off," he said.
Official updates of the cleanup are being posted to the Lubbock Fire Department Facebook page available here.
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