Chlorine Leak at OH Water Plant

Wednesday, May 6, 2015 @ 12:05 PM gHale

A chlorine leak from a valve Monday morning at a Youngstown, OH, wastewater treatment plant forced an evacuation, officials said.

The Himrod Avenue Expressway between U.S. Route 62 and Interstate 680 and the section of Poland Avenue in front of the plant, between Gibson Street and Powers Way, ended up closed until Tuesday morning.

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Just after 9 a.m. Monday, workers evacuated the facility after potentially hazardous liquid chlorine began leaking from a valve as workers were trying to switch one-ton tanks of the chemical, used in the water treatment process. Firefighters and HazMat crews responded and shut off the leak.

“Unfortunately, they lost about 500 pounds of liquid chlorine that remained in the building, that did not get mixed off, so we are going to have to slowly allow the air exchangers within that building to mix it with air and release it back into the environment,” Youngstown Fire Department Battalion Chief Sil Caggiano said.

What complicated the problem is liquid chlorine freezes when it ends up exposed to the air and firefighters found a lot of what had leaked had frozen in large puddles on the floor of the building rather than evaporating into the atmosphere. They now have to wait for the chemical to warm up and then dissipate.

And until that happens, firefighters opted to close Poland Avenue and the nearby expressway, as well as the businesses inside the nearby Performance Place Industrial Park, as precautions.

There is no public health risk from the chlorine leak, officials said.

Crews first feared the wind would blow the gas toward the east and northeast, so they sent a truck with a measuring device to the east side of the Mahoning River to check for the presence of chlorine.

Fire officials warned citizens to avoid the area around the plant and ordered a shelter in place, with doors and windows closed, unless notified otherwise.

Chlorine can cause irritation of the lungs and eyes, as well as difficulty breathing, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

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