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Officials respond to chemical spill at I-Falls paper mill

County and state officials responded to a sulfuric acid spill at the Boise Paper mill in International Falls last week.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency reported Tuesday that it was notified last week that about 2,000 to 3,000 gallons of sulfuric acid had spilled onto the production floor. The liquid flowed from a floor drain into the plant's wastewater treatment facility, the MPCA reported; plant employees worked to neutralize the acid by adding an alkalizing agent, and eventually shut down the wastewater treatment facility.

The plant is located along the Rainy River, and staff from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the Koochiching County Soil and Water Conservation District patrolled about 30 miles of the river downstream from International Falls on Friday and Saturday to look for evidence of a fish kill. They did not find any dead fish.

“It’s important to note that a fish kill would be a primary indicator of too much acid in a water body because acid affects the available oxygen, and when that decreases to a certain level, fish die,” MPCA spokeswoman Anne Moore said.

Boise worked with the MPCA to determine how to restart their wastewater treatment plant, and it is once again fully functional, the MPCA reported.

A message left with a media contact for Boise Paper on Tuesday was not returned.