Release Forces Evac at OH Chem Plant

Wednesday, June 25, 2014 @ 01:06 PM gHale

An undetermined amount of a form of nitrogen dioxide released through a stack at the Shepherd Chemical facility in Norwood, Ohio, shortly before 11 a.m. Tuesday.

Workers evacuated to a building across the street and authorities ordered a “shelter in place” for residences and businesses with 500 feet to the northeast and northwest of the plant.

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“We have a scrubber or a pollution control device on the system that captures that nitrogen dioxide, converts it back into the process, recovers it and puts it back,” company spokesman Rob Paxton said.

Paxton said it was unclear what caused the leak, but yellow smoke was billowing out of Shepherd’s smokestack.

“We started immediate monitoring around the site and had zero readings,” Norwood Assistant Fire Chief Steve Rump said. “We did shelter-in-place some businesses and residences just as a precaution. There was never any real danger to them.”

Officials lifted the order just before 1:30 p.m.

Nitrogen dioxide can cause airway inflammation in healthy people and increased respiratory symptoms in people with asthma, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Shepherd said nitrogen dioxide is a combustion byproduct and a pollutant.

About 120 Shepherd employees evacuated, but no one suffered an injury.

“It has an OSHA-permissible exposure limit and we don’t feel that the amount that was released would exceed any of that concentration,” Paxton said.

The Shepherd Chemical Company said it will figure out what happened and will submit a follow-up report to the EPA on its findings.

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