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Newell company slows operations to clean up chemical spill

A Fayette County company whose leak resulted in a chemical spill on Wednesday will stop the majority of its production until at least after the Labor Day holiday weekend.

Henwil Corp., located at 899 Third St. in Newell, leaked an alcohol-based biodegradable material about 5:45 p.m. Wednesday that spilled into the Monongahela River. The company blends chemicals for water treatment plants.

"We've currently stopped everything, and we're focusing on cleanup. We probably won't be involved in any production, other than what's necessary for our customers, until after the holiday," said Tim Phelps, plant manager. "Anything we see floating along our shoreline, we're picking it up. ... Anything that pops up at a later date, we will continue to get that cleaned up. We will keep booms up around the shoreline until everything is cleaned."

Phelps said 2,620 gallons of an ethoxylate detergent spilled and filled a containment pit, but some leaked through a crack in the wall of the pit. That leak was repaired on Thursday, he added.

The nontoxic material did not result in injuries to any people. However, the product can coat the gills of fish, smothering them and killing about 50 as a result of the spill.

"We're getting there," Phelps said. "It's an unfortunate incident. We regret it happening. We will sit down and develop a detailed plan to prevent this from happening again. This is the first time anything like this has happened. We do not want this to reoccur."

Phelps said the facility opened in 2005.

Representatives from the state Department of Environmental Protection and the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission responded to the spill.

"We sent out emergency team members to survey the scene and assist with containing any more liquid from releasing into the river," said DEP spokeswoman Katy Gresh.

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