Dock Workers Sickened by Container Ship Toxic Spill

Photo: Long Beach FD

LONG BEACH, CA – Firefighters treated a dozen longshoremen for exposure to a concentrated industrial solvent at the Port of Long Beach that leaked from a container ship, and one firefighter was hurt in a fall, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

The exposure was at about 9:45 a.m., Sunday, at Pier G, Berth 232 where a flammable liquid leaked from a 6,000-gallon tank on the container vessel, Harbour Bridge, according to the Coast Guard.

A hazardous materials unit, a search-and-rescue unit and paramedics were dispatched to the scene. Two Long Beach fire boats and one of the city’s lifeguard rescue boats deployed a 1,000-foot boom in the water alongside the docked ship as a precautionary measure against environmental damage.

The chemical was identified as propyl acetate, a solvent that in small doses smells of pears and is used as a food flavor. But in large amounts and concentrated form, it can severely irritate eyes, skin and lungs.

The 12 longshoremen were treated, and one was taken to an emergency room. A Long Beach firefighter was injured in a fall of some sort, but details of that were not available. All of the injured haven treated and released, according to the Coast Guard.

The Coast Guard captain in charge of the Port then set up a safety zone of 150 yards around the ship to facilitate, assessment and clean-up operations. The spill was being cleaned up by the Long Beach Fire Department Hazardous Materials team, along with Patriot Environmental Services.

The Long Beach Fire Department said the container has been drained and the solvent secured.