Chlorine Leak Forces Evac

Wednesday, July 22, 2015 @ 03:07 PM gHale

A chlorine leak at Clear Lake IA’s Water Treatment Plant ended up contained Friday but not before officials evacuated nearby homes.

A water plant worker called the Fire Department at 8:36 a.m. after smelling chlorine in the downtown facility adjacent to City Park, said Clear Lake City Administrator Scott Flory.

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Officials were unsure how long the chemical had been leaking, how much had leaked or what caused the leak, but said it was a hazardous situation. The plant has about 1,500 pounds of the chemical in multiple 175-pound cylinders, Flory said.

A strong chlorine smell was evident two blocks northeast of the plant at First Avenue South and South Third Street about 9:30 a.m.

A toxic yellow-green gas, chlorine can irritate eyes, skin and the respiratory system. It can be fatal if inhaled in extreme concentrations. There were no injuries in the incident.

Officials were able to contain the leak shortly after noon, according to Clear Lake Fire Department Captain Jim Finstad. Dressed in red hazardous material suits, North Iowa Regional Hazardous Materials Response Team members initially entered the facility around 11 a.m.

Finstad said the building is now in the hands of public works personnel, while streets reopened and evacuations lifted after firefighters ventilated the plant.

“Everything is back to normal now,” Finstad said Friday afternoon. “We located the problem, which was nothing really major and something that could be easily fixed.”

Finstad said the malfunction traced back to a gas line which they said may have cracked. Workers repaired the line.

The water plant remained operational on Friday, since workers can run the system remotely.