Sulfuric Acid Spilled at San Miguel Winery

Written by Neil Farrell

Neil has been a journalist covering the Estero Bay Area for over 27 years. He’s won numerous journalism awards in several different categories over his career.

April 8, 2021

County Environment Health responded and dealt with an acid spill in San Miguel that leaked from a tank at a local winery.

According to a March 26 news release, at 1 p.m. Thursday, March 25, Environmental Health was notified by the County Public Works Department of “an unknown chemical pooled on Cross Canyons Road just south of the intersection with Indian Valley Road in San Miguel,” Peter Hague Supervising Environmental Health Specialist said. “An environmental health specialist, in conjunction with the County Hazardous Material Response Team, determined the material to be sulfuric acid released from a storage tank on a vineyard at 8585 Cross Canyons Rd.” That winery at that location is Locatelli Vineyards.

The County traced the chemicals back to a ruptured storage tank and by the time they got there, the acid had leaked to a point below the hole, so it had already stopped leaking. It left a streak of contamination.

“The acid that leaked from the tank was partially absorbed into the soil,” Hague said, “but excess liquid moved down a hillside to Cross Canyons Road.” Some of the acid ran into a storm drain that empties into the Salinas River.

“The impacted roadway was coned off to direct traffic away from the spill,” Hague said. “A hazardous waste remediation company was dispatched and arrived onsite in the late afternoon.”

The County Haz-Mat Team neutralized the acid that same afternoon “and thus very unlikely cause a threat to public health,’ Hague said. “The hazardous waste remediation company was further absorbing and neutralizing the soil, road, and storm drain.”

The cause of the leak was traced to a tank trailer that kicked the acid tank and cut a hole in it.

Sulfuric acid is used in wine making with regards to the pH levels (adding tartness). The fumes of sulfuric acid are dangerous. “Inhalation of concentrated vapor can be extremely irritating to the upper respiratory tract and may cause serious lung damage. Skin contact with concentrated acid may produce severe necrosis and frequent skin contact with dilute solutions may cause dermatitis.”
And, “Contact causes severe burns with redness, swelling, pain and blurred vision. Permanent damage including blindness can result. Ingestion: Can burn the lips, tongue, throat and stomach. Symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps and diarrhea.”

It also harms the environment. “Sulfuric acid will exist as particles or droplets in the air if released to the atmosphere. It dissolves when mixed with water. It has moderate acute [short-term] toxicity on aquatic life. Sulfuric acid is very corrosive and would badly burn any plants, birds or land animals exposed to it.”

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