Chem Leak Forces OH White Castle Plant Evac

Tuesday, May 10, 2016 @ 06:05 PM gHale

A White Castle manufacturing plant just outside Dayton, OH, evacuated last Tuesday after workers discovered a chemical leak.

About 120 employees of the fast-food chain’s plant in Vandalia, OH, evacuated the plant before 10 a.m. Tuesday when an ammonia leak ended up discovered in in one room of the building.

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Vandalia is 10 miles north of Dayton.

“Today we were made aware of a very small ammonia leak in our system,” said Whitney Baker, the plant’s quality assurance manager. “There’s no food safety risk at this time, but of course we will evaluate the product before we resume production.”

The leak was likely that of anhydrous ammonia, a dangerous chemical, said Rich Hopkins, spokesman with city of Vandalia.

The ammonia is a “major component” of the refrigeration units the plant uses, Hopkins said.

Hopkins said there’s a “well-established protocol” for cleaning up that type of spill. The location has to be ventilated to allow the fumes to dissipate and then readings are taken to measure the parts per million in the air.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, anhydrous ammonia, a colorless gas with pungent, suffocating fumes, is an agricultural fertilizer and industrial refrigerant. When ammonia releases into the air it expands rapidly, forming a large cloud that acts like a heavier-than-air gas for a period of time. Because the vapors hug the ground initially, the chances for humans to suffer exposure are greater than with other gases. Symptoms of anhydrous ammonia exposure include:

  • Eye, nose, and throat irritation
  • Breathing difficulty, wheezing, or chest pain
  • Pulmonary edema, pink frothy sputum
  • Burns, blisters and frostbite

Exposure can be fatal at high concentrations.

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