Workers Halt Ammonia Leak

Wednesday, April 18, 2018 @ 03:04 PM gHale

Residents in homes near a frozen food plant in North Carolina ended up forced to evacuate when ammonia leaked from a valve in the facility.

The Fayetteville Fire Department’s Hazardous Materials Team and other firefighters ended up called to Vanguard Culinary Group April 1, which produces refrigerated foods at its plant on Whitfield Street. Nobody was hurt.

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An unacceptable amount of anhydrous ammonia was detected in the building, said Battalion Chief David Hargis of the Fayetteville Fire Department.

Anhydrous ammonia is “a colorless gas with pungent, suffocating fumes” that can be immediately dangerous to life or health when handled improperly, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website. The ammonia is used as an agricultural fertilizer and industrial refrigerant, the website said.

Charles Manis, the owner of the company, said two of the company’s workers, who went into the plant with two firefighters, were able to stop the leak.

“A couple of hundred pounds” of ammonia was in the building, which was not occupied when the leak occurred, Manis said. A small pressure valve was causing the leak.

Firefighters were at the plant at 4:30 p.m. and were there for more than two hours.

Two firefighters wearing air packs went into the building shortly after units arrived to check the air inside. They were in the building for about 15 minutes.

Firefighters parked a firetruck near the plant and unrolled a fire hose just before the two firefighters came out of the building. Fire officials set up a robot in case it was needed to go into the building.

A short while later, the two Vanguard maintenance workers arrived and talked with fire officials. They put on protective suits and air packs and went into the building with two other firefighters.

A paramedic checked the workers’ blood pressure before and after they went into the building.

The Vanguard facility was closed for several days in 2014 when the same gas leaked out at the building. Four leaks were reported at the facility from August 2000 to September 2002.

Vanguard Culinary Group, Inc. has been producing food products since 1998, according to its website.

The company, which produces poultry, pork, beef and side dishes, has consistently scored in the top five percent in food safety and quality as measured by independent food auditors, the site said.



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