RTI plant reopens after chemical spill

RTI Surgical, in the River Park area in the city of Marquette, is pictured. (Journal file photo)

MARQUETTE — RTI Surgical in Marquette reopened Wednesday evening, five days after employees were evacuated due to a nitric acid spill, Marquette Fire Department officials said.

No injuries were reported as a result of the incident, and 19 individuals were transported to UP Health System-Marquette where they were evaluated, treated and released Marquette Fire Department Lieutenant Kurt Hillier said in a phone interview today.

In an email Wednesday, RTI Surgical representative Andrea Johnson provided a statement from the company.

“The safety of employees is a top priority for RTI. All employees who were in the building at the time of the incident were evaluated by medical personnel and are safe and well. Out of an abundance of caution and in line with our procedures, we closed the Marquette facility while we remediated the leak and performed air-quality testing,” the statement said.

Emergency crews were on the scene for nearly eight hours according to a Saturday Marquette City Fire Department release.

“We were there for quite a while because we had to wait for the right equipment and personnel to identify positively what we were dealing with,” Hillier said today. “In this case, because we didn’t know what we were dealing with, we had to call in the proper entities.”

The cause of the incident, which according to the press release caused an orange plume in the area involved and a clear liquid visible on the floor, was a rupture in a 55-gallon drum of nitric acid, Hillier said.

In order to gather that information, he said a hazardous material or haz-mat technician from the city fire department, a representative from Tri-Media Environmental and Engineering and an officer from Marquette County Rescue 131 “suited up” to enter the building.

“Once we got eyes in the room we were able to determine the cause,” Hillier said. “We were also able to determine that there should be no environmental impact after the fact because there were no drains in the room where the barrel was stored.”

Hillier noted that area agencies worked very well together to handle the situation.

“We don’t get those haz-mat runs very often, so it was great to see all those agencies come together,” Hillier said. “It really went smoothly considering what it was.”

He said once the cause of the issue was confirmed, the company became responsible for clean-up efforts and air quality assurances in the building.

Nitric acid, Johnson said, is used in RTI’s cleaning processes, “as is common in industry process.”

Marquette City Fire was assisted at the scene by the Chocolay Township Fire Department, Marquette County 131, Marquette Police Department, UPHS 141, Tri-Media Environmental and Engineering, Salvation Army, Marquette Township Fire Department EMS assisted the city with EMS coverage during the incident.

Hillier said the Marquette Department of Public Works also assisted.

RTI is identified on its website as “a leading global surgical implant company providing surgeons with safe biologic, metal and synthetic implants.”

“RTI’s implants are used in sports medicine, general surgery, spine, orthopedic and trauma procedures and are distributed in nearly 50 countries,” the site states. “RTI has four manufacturing facilities throughout the U.S. and Europe.”

Lisa Bowers can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. Her email address is lbowers@miningjournal.net.