Erin Pearson, 02 March 2016

SPECIALIST investigators will probe the cause of a toxic chemical spill that put 35 people in hospital after they ­inhaled fumes at a Little River service station.

A B-double truck driver pulled into the BP service station carpark about 1.30pm, with litres of the chemical butyl acrylate leaking from a crack in the tanker.

CFA officers with breathing apparatus surrounded the FBT Transwest truck, which stopped at the back of the site, before evacuating and cor­doning off the entire area.

A temporary triage centre was set up in parkland about 100m downwind from the servo as about 30 litres of the strong smelling substance leaked out.

Butyl acrylate is used to make paint and adhesives and its fumes can cause a range of symptoms including nausea and vomiting.

Acting Senior Sergeant Jonathan Parish said the chemical was “quite distressful” to those who breathed it in and police and paramedics at the scene wore masks.

“All employees at BP (and Hungry Jacks) were evacuated to a safe area downwind away from the fumes,” he said.

“Symptoms range from light-headedness to dry throat, difficulty breathing and a little bit of wheezing.

“It was about 1.30pm when we had a driver of a B-double tanker carrying a hazardous chemical believing he might have had a leak on board and pulled into the BP service station to check it out.

“In consultation with the CFA and Hazmat, a decision was made not to block off the freeway.”

CFA operations officer Simon Scharf said all staff who responded were trained to deal with chemical spills.

“Crews contained the situation, assessed the first aid ­requirements, monitored the atmosphere and made sure people were safe at all times,” he said. “We had about 30 people on scene.

“They were capturing the material as it leaked rather than letting it leak and spread.”

Mr Scharf said the chemical would be transferred from the leaking tanker to another truck and taken away from the site. The transfer operation was to take about an hour last night and the scene would be back to normal by about 9.30pm, he said.

Ambulance Victoria health commander Matthew Ponsford said the day’s heat had exaggerated some symptoms.

Traffic flowed in both directions on the Princes Freeway but was reduced to two lanes Geelong-bound.

FBT Transwest is a ­Melbourne-based company specialising in bulk liquid tank storage and transport nationwide.

WorkSafe and the CFA are investigating.

Extracted in full from the Geelong Advertiser.