Danger of Sulfuric Acid Spills

Arizona State is dealing Florence a toxic dilemna

At a hearing in Florence several years ago, I testified about the inevitable problems caused by bringing tankers (either by truck or rail) of sulfuric acid into the Florence town limits. I have facts and figures from my previous experience getting clean water in Green Valley from mining pollution, basically from sulfuric acid spills. That's right, and it was not an in-situ operation that actually puts sulfuric acid into the water supply—but pollution to our public water supply due to spills, that can be caused by accidents: vehicle crashes, equipment failure and pipe breakage.

In the 17-year period between 1988 and 2005, spills at the Sierrita mine amounted to around 50,000 gallons of sulfuric acid. How can these spills make a difference? I had noticed that there were strange spikes in the sulfate levels in our local public water company records. Finally, the question hit me: Could there be a correlation between the sulfuric acid spills and the spikes of sulfate and TDS in our water supply? I created a table and found—amazingly—that there was a consistent 39-month time period for the sulfuric acid from a spill to travel the approximate 3 miles from the leaching operations to two Green Valley public wells. During this time, the ambient sulfate level rose from 60 mg/ltr to 500 mg/ltr in Well 7 and 100 mg/ltr to 500 mg/ltr in Well 8. This example shows the result of the seepage of the acid spills 3-miles away, so you can imagine what the result would be if the spills occurred right by the aquifer.

These number pushed the TDS level to 900 mg/ltr. This meant that the hardness of our water was three times the definition of hard water, which is 1-12 grains per gallon. This meant that everyone in the community had to buy a reverse osmosis filtering system for drinking water and have it serviced at least every six months. Even so the dishes out of the dishwasher had a gray film unless you bought a whole house water filter. Hard water clogs up appliances and pipes. You would not believe the sludge that came out of water heater when I drained it. And of course this water would clog up the human body artery system, although diarrhea was the most common effect due to the “natural” magnesium sulfate (which is epson salt).

This webpage that shows all of the spill records at my local Sierrita mine in Green Valley, AZ:


The other avenue of sulfuric acid to the environment is truck and train accidents. Because of this danger, the entire area of Florence will have to have an evacuation plan. Accidents do happen. One example occurred in 2001 when sulfuric acid that leaked from overturned rail tankers forced the evacuation of more than 100 residents in Sahuarita , AZ.

In 2005, a truck carrying sulfuric acid to Phelps Dodge Morenci mine was involved in a head on collision with a truck. The accident claimed one life and injured two others.

In 2007, a semi-truck drove into a passenger car in Tucson . The collision then ruptured the truck's acid load of 1,500 pounds of sulfuric and other acids.

In 2013, twelve rail tankers, each carrying approximately 23,775 gallons of sulfuric acid, were derailed when bridge collapsed near Naco, AZ.

These are some examples from Arizona. There are dozens of accidents every year around the country. One website compiles all the information:


Florence is really taking a heavy hit from Arizona State. The State has already engineered the demise of the Gila River nearby. Now they are engineering a Hazardous Waste threat to the health of the people of the town. Florence was were required by the State of Arizona to have a Town Plan, which cost the community tax money. A few years later, the State officials are ignoring the Plan and are permitting a hazardous waste situation within the town limits. There is no justification for this infringement on citizens' rights, their health and their property values.