Smithfield Pork Plant Reopens

Monday, June 23, 2014 @ 11:06 AM gHale

Four days after a water tower collapsed causing an ammonia leak, the Smithfield Food Processing plant in Tar Heel, NC, started operations back up.

The reason for the delay was they were having issues restoring power after the water tower fell on Tuesday, causing an ammonia leak and forcing workers to evacuate the plant.

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Emergency crews in Bladen County responded to the ammonia leak around 11 a.m. Tuesday.

Dennis Pittman, director of Smithfield Communications, said 11 people ended up taken to the hospital and have all released.

Pittman also said the plant was originally on schedule to close Friday and Saturday, but reopened Friday to make up for lost time during the shut down.

Emergency personnel began evacuating people from all facilities at the pork processing plant and sending them across NC Highway 87, Pittman said.

The primary investigation shows a hot water tank fell over, knocking the valve off of a reserve ammonia tank spilling an unknown amount.

Pittman said there were about 2,400 employees at the plant, which is the largest pork processing plant in the world, at the time of the spill. There are an estimated 4,500-5,000 employees according to Pittman.

Workers evacuated around 1 p.m. and returned to the plant around 2:30 p.m., but the plant remained non-operational.

Officials said the spill looks accidental, but they are investigating all possibilities at this time.

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