1 Hurt in KY Toxic Chem Release

Tuesday, June 23, 2015 @ 07:06 PM gHale

One worker suffered an injury after a potentially toxic chemical leak at a biotech company in the Jeffersontown, KY, area prompted an evacuation and a shelter-in-place order.

Peptides International said this was the first time the company had to use its evacuation plan.

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One employee is at a hospital following the chemical leak.

“This has impacted about five businesses around the facility there,” Emergency Management Agency Director Debbie Cox said.

About 150 people received warnings about the incident Friday afternoon after hydrogen fluoride (HF) escaped from a cylinder at Peptides International.

The company creates products for research, and the nearly 30 employees inside the business ended up evacuated.

“What we understand from plant personnel was it was a tubing that goes into this particular container of HF that actually popped off during the actual experiment that they were doing,” said Jeffersontown Fire Department Chief Sean Dreisbach.

A co-worker ended up taking an employee to a hospital, where he’s in stable condition.

“Don’t believe it was operator error, just based on what usually goes on with that situation. It seems like it was probably a mechanical problem,” spokesman Bob Brousseau said.

To stop the leak and monitor the situation, several agencies were on the scene for hours while a shelter-in-place order was in effect.

That meant employees trying to get to nearby businesses had to stay put.

“We’re just kind of waiting here until we can drop off our trucks and go home,” said Derek Calvert, who works nearby.

Hydrogen fluoride, also known as HF, can be fatal. It can irritate eyes, nose and the respiratory tract.

“HF is one of the most dangerous chemicals that we probably deal with, transportation as well as in facilities,” Dreisbach said.

Brousseau said he’s thankful the leak was not deadly. “That’s the No. 1 thing and we’re very, very happy about that.”

The business will file a report with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.