Chem Spill Hurts 20 at CA Plant

Wednesday, October 21, 2015 @ 03:10 PM gHale

A toxic concoction of chemicals spilled at a Taylor Farms processing plant last week, sending 20 workers to the hospital with symptoms ranging from nosebleeds to vomiting and fainting.

The Oct. 15 spill at the plant in Tracy, CA, ended up reported when a worker called emergency services to report the incident.

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When employees arrived at work, they reported “a strong smell of chlorine,” said worker Guadalupe Leon. But Leon’s crew leader told him to put on a mask and continue working, he said. He said he later grew faint and went to the hospital.

The hospitalized patients included two pregnant women, according to the Teamsters, a group aiding the workers’ efforts to unionize since 2014.

Doug Bloch of Teamsters Council 7 said all of the workers returned to work the following day, except for one pregnant woman, who took unpaid leave.

Fire department division chief Andrew Kellogg attributed the spill to mixing two potent cleaning chemicals: Acetic acid and chlorine. Officials with Taylor Farms did not return messages requesting comment.

In 2012, a chemical spill at the same location also sent 20 workers to the hospital.

Public records from California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health found Taylor Farms received a fine of $1,685 for the 2012 incident. The inspection detail cites workers’ “eye and breathing irritation” after exposure to cleaning chemicals. The citation further notes after the incident, the “employer mechanized the process to prevent future chemical releases.”