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Fire causes chemical spill in Mussacuna creek | Hernando, MS mayor says water pH levels are now normal

According to Mayor Chip Johnson, the creek is not a water source for the city, and the chemical did not cause a threat to residents.

HERNANDO, Miss — A fire at a pipes, steel and iron company in Hernando, Mississippi, caused a slight scare after chemical acid spilled into a nearby creek. 

It happened late Saturday evening, but crews have been working since then to monitor any water contamination. 

Hernando Mayor Chip Johnson said water and soil samples are testing at normal levels, but the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MSDEQ) will continue to monitor the creek where chemicals spilled.

For days, it has been test, test and retest. 

“We are doing everything and have done everything we think we should do,” said Johnson.

Late Saturday night, Feb. 25, 2023, a rear building at SXP (Schulz Xtruded Products), a pipes, iron, and steel company in Hernando, caught fire.

“It was very smoky. It was burning some plastic. It was some sort of an electronics fire or electrical fire,” said Johnson. 

He said everyone in the building safely evacuated. Hernando Fire Department was able to put out the fire.

“Once the fire was out, they let the employees come back in. The employees said, ‘Hey, we had this hydrofluoric acid and it’s gone',” said Johnson.

Hydroflouric acid is a chemical the SXP uses to treat their metal pipes. Johnson said the container it was in melted, and acid poured into the nearby Mussacuna Creek. That creek flows into the Arkabutla Lake. 

“The good thing about acids is they dilute in water,” said Johnson.

On Saturday, water came from not only the firefighters but Mother Nature’s rain as well. 

“That’s what really saved it from being worse than what it could have been,” said Johnson.

SXP and the Mississippi Department of Environmental Equality brought in crews who quickly created a dam stopping waterflow. 

“They basically dumped a bunch of dirt there on Robertson Gin Road in the ditch and dammed it up to make sure that they could get it treated properly to keep it from going to Arkabutla,” said Johnson.

After almost 48 hours, most concerns were at ease. 

“They removed the dam. The water today, I think the levels are at 7.5 now which is almost neutral,” said Johnson. “Now, the citizens are safe. All the firefighters are safe. There’s nothing near drinking water, nothing to worry about from our perspective.”

According to Mayor Johnson, the creek is not a water source for the city, and the chemical did not cause a threat to residents.

According to Desoto County government, community air quality testing was completed in addition to water and soil sample testing as an extra precaution.

The only cleanup left is at the SXP site. In the meantime, Johnson said crews will continue to come out over the next several days to test the water and soil to make sure there are no signs of contamination.

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