Mysterious drums of dangerous chemical appear along Healdsburg roads

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The discovery last week of two large drums filled with a dangerous acid and illegally dumped along Healdsburg‑area roadways has prompted city fire officials to issue warnings and seek help in learning how they got there.

The first 55‑gallon drum appeared June 4 on the edge of a Kinley Drive vineyard in west Healdsburg. On June 6, two days later, a similar drum appeared in the bike lane along Old Redwood Highway near Eastside Road, also west of Healdsburg.

Fire officials suspect the containers were full of Hexafluorozirconic acid, which is what the drum labels indicated. The acid is used in a variety of manufacturing work including metal cleaning, electro plating and making optical glass.

But it’s very dangerous, even to breathe its fumes, said Linda Collister, Healdsburg fire marshal and a hazmat specialist. She warned anyone finding another drum to call 911.

“Don’t approach it. Don’t open it. Don’t touch it,” said Collister. “It could cause severe skin burns, eye damage and be toxic if inhaled.”

A business using such an acid is required to report the use and follow strict handling and disposal requirements, which typically is expensive, she said. No Healdsburg‑area businesses have reported using the acid, she said.

The fairly full drums were placed upright. Whoever left them had to have proper equipment to set it on the ground due to the heavy corrosive inside.

Such abandoned containers typically result in a response by firefighters and Sonoma County hazardous materials officials to determine what’s inside and to have the stuff properly disposed.

Last week, the state Department of Toxics Substance Control also came to inspect the containers. “When you find a chemical that’s really dangerous like this they send out their hazmat team to pick it up,” Collister said.

She asked anyone with information to contact the city fire department at 707‑431‑3360.

You can reach Staff Writer Randi Rossmann at 707‑521-5412 or randi.rossmann@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter@rossmannreport.

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