Chem Cloud Causes Injuries, Forces Evac

Tuesday, October 25, 2016 @ 12:10 PM gHale

Over 100 people ended up treated for respiratory issues after a chemical spill at an MGP Ingredients Inc. facility Friday generated a chemical cloud over Atchison, KS.

Schools ended up evacuated and officials issued a shelter in place for residents along with advising people not to enter the city. After the chemical cloud dissipated, they gave the all clear sign.

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The two chemicals involved in the spill were sulfuric acid and sodium hypochlorite, which mixed to create a chlorine cloud. MGP Ingredients makes bourbon and rye whiskeys, gins and vodkas, according to its website.

“The cloud was massive,” Atchison Fire Department Chief Ted Graf said. “I’m not even sure how to describe it.”

Seventy-two people ended up treated locally for respiratory discomfort and an additional 30 received treatment at regional medical facilities, although the injuries were minor, said Trey Cocking, Atchison city manager. Cocking described the effects of the chemical cloud as being like mustard gas, a chemical weapon.

Cocking said the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had declared the area clear after completing air-quality tests.

The incident occurred at 8 a.m. when the two chemicals were mistakenly mixed at the MGP Ingredients facility after one was brought in by a semi-tractor tanker, Cocking said.

Founded in 1941, MGP Ingredients employs 320 people, according to the company’s website.

“MGP Ingredients has reported the event to the EPA and Kansas and local authorities, and is cooperating fully to investigate and ensure that all appropriate response actions are taken. MGP has also engaged outside experts to assist the investigation and response,” company officials said.

“There was no significant damage to its Atchison plant as a result of this incident,” it added.

Cocking said cleanup work was under way at MGP on Friday night.

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