North Branch Potomac Latex Discharge

Potomac river with latex spill.The Maryland Department of the Environment received reports on September 24, 2015, of a yellow/white coloration in the North Branch Potomac River. MDE sent an investigator to the site and the Department also contacted the Verso paper mill and the Upper Potomac River Commission plant that treats wastewater from the paper mill. The paper mill said the mill had an approximately 10,000 gallon spill of latex, which is used for paper coating, over a four-hour period after off-loading of a rail car and that the spill was discharged through their collection system to the Upper Potomac River Commission plant.

According to information provided by the Verso paper mill to MDE, the substance that was discharged is Latex CP 620NA, manufactured by Trinseo LLC.

According to information from the manufacturer’s Material Safety Data Sheet:

  • The product is not a hazardous chemical as defined under U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations.
  • The components of the material are styrene-butadiene based polymer and water.

Because the substance is in the water column of a flowing river, it is not possible to contain the spill or to remove it from the water. It is expected that the substance will continue to flow down the river and become diluted.

In keeping with the Department’s practice for spills and discharges, MDE notified the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin for notification to drinking water facilities not only in Maryland but in Virginia, West Virginia and Washington, D.C.

MDE’s primary focus at this time is to ensure that public health and the environment are protected. Information available to MDE at this time does not indicate a health concern. MDE continues to work to obtain additional information, including laboratory analysis of water samples collected from affected locations of the river.

Laboratory results received to date have shown no detection of styrene, the primary constituent of concern, and no evidence of butadiene, another constituent of concern. MDE has provided the laboratory testing results to the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin. MDE will continue to provide information to the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin and drinking water systems.


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