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Tragic Acid Spill in Hong Kong’s

Wetlands Park Article by Carlos Arribas

Last Thursday, 5th of October a train carrying 819,00 litres of sulfuric acid crashed 10
km west of Hong Kong Wetlands Park. The authorities have investigated the crash and found out
the reason for this accident was because of poor maintenance of the railroad. “It was a normal
night where I was just doing my job driving the train, when it suddenly crashed against
something” said the train driver, Simone Jules, who had experienced second degree burns and
temporary blindness from the acid.

Hong Kong’s government has requested for an investigation by several professional


scientists who have come from everywhere around Hong Kong in order to find a way to protect
all living species surrounding the Wetlands Park. It has been estimated that at least 70% of the
sulfuric acid has entered the water table of the park, while the other 30% has spread around the
crash, not causing any big impacts in the environment near the accident.

On the other hand, the acid that reached the water of the park could have some serious
issues on the environment. “When sulfuric acid and water mix, the reaction causes heat” said one
of the fellow scientists working on the case, which can have several impacts on the environment
in the Wetlands Park. For example, acidic water makes it more difficult for fish to breath because
it it’s hot. That is the reason why several fish had started to suddenly die in the park’s water.
Also, thousands of microscopic bacteria, such as macrophytes, that are in charge of keeping the
water clean have died, which can have disastrous effects on the water, by making it unlivable for
any organism. At last, the soil surrounding the water has absorbed the acid. That will make the
plants absorb sulfur and nitric compounds through their roots into their system, which can lead to
deteriorating plant growth and to eventually killing the plant. “We have done some tests to the
soil around the affected water and we have come to a conclusion that 70% of the soil was able to
effectively absorb and neutralize the acid of the water.” said George Wu, a soil and plants
scientist. That means 30% of the soil was contaminated by the acid. The affected soil won’t be
able to grow anything until it fully recovers, which will take almost three decades.

Luckily, the acid didn’t reach land, which means that no terrestrial animals were affected
by the acid spill, except for those who have drank the water. There are 10 veterinarians taking
care of every found animal that are showing any symptoms of ingesting acid. Although, not
everything is good news. There are several small and not so small organisms that have been
negatively affected by the acid spill. It has killed thousands of animals and insects that predators
used to feed on. This caused hundreds of different food chains to be disrupted, which can lead to
the predators to be destroyed, since they don’t have prey to feed on.

Today, Thursday, 12th of October, this catastrophe has been controlled. Scientists finally
neutralized the acid and the water by adding sodium hydroxide, which is a base. The sodium
hydroxide will take care that there are no excess hydrogen ions left in the solution, which will
neutralize the water. As you can see in this graph,
the pH of the water has been increasing until it has
finally stabilized in a pH of 7, which is neutral. The
pH of a substance is how acidic or basic they are. A
pH of 0 is very acidic, while a pH of 14 is very
basic. In the graph, it is shown how the pH of the
water kept increasing day by day, until day four,
where it reached a pH of 8.5. That made the water
too basic, so some sulfuric acid had to be added, in
order to balance it out. The pH decreased until day
6, where it reached a pH of 7 and above will
determine it has maintained that level.

After one week of non-stop work from the


Government and their associates, this situation has been controlled. Even though it has caused
some irreparable damage, Hong Kong’s Wetlands Park will survive and will open its doors again
next Monday the 16th of October.

Works Cited
“The Effects of Acidic Water.” Sciencing, sciencing.com/effects-acidic-water-5463201.html.

Sanderson, Katharine. “Hot Waters Make It Hard for Fish to Breathe.” Nature News, Nature

Publishing Group, Apr. 2007, www.nature.com/news/2007/070104/full/news070101-

5.html.

Sanderson, Katharine. “Hot Waters Make It Hard for Fish to Breathe.” Nature News, Nature

Publishing Group, Apr. 2007, www.nature.com/news/2007/070104/full/news070101-

5.html.

Supply, Lab Safety. “How to Neutralize Chemical Spills.” Lab Manager,

www.labmanager.com/lab-health-and-safety/2009/04/how-to-neutralize-chemical-spills.

“A Slight Recovery of Soils from Acid Rain over the Last Three Decades Is Not Reflected in the

Macro Nutrition of Beech (Fagus Sylvatica) at 97 Forest Stands of the Vienna Woods.”

Environmental Pollution, Elsevier, 2016,

www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0269749116305127.