Ammonia leaking from 20,000-gallon container fueled concerns of wider contamination
Workers at a Coca-Cola plant in Florida were forced to evacuate after a major chemical leak, local officials said. The spill also prompted a brief shelter-in-place order for area residents.
A massive 20,000-gallon tank was found to be leaking ammonia at a facility in Auburndale, Fla., on Wednesday morning, a city spokesman told a local Fox affiliate, noting that all employees were evacuated from the plant.
Residents living in a two-block area near the plant were also told to shelter in place after the discovery, though the order was lifted a few hours later after firefighters successfully contained the leak . Cleanup operations were reported to have been completed by around 3:30 p.m.
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There were no reports of serious injuries to plant employees or local residents, although the Coca-Cola Company later issued a statement noting that “a number of electrical employees working nearby” sought medical attention” for mild eye and throat irritations.”
Deputy Fire Chief David Cash also said some citizens had called to complain of a chemical smell and “irritation” that may have been caused by the spill, but said the substance had been largely contained to the floor.
“[Ammonia] it comes out as a liquid and then evaporates into steam,” he said. “We’ve had both of those problems. Steam rose up and out of the plant, a small amount. The liquid was contained, and we mixed water with it. You can spray water on it and that minimizes it and it was all contained within the plant and within its filtration system, so none of it escaped the scene.”
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Cash said the leak was caused by a problem with the “piping” in the 20,000-gallon container, adding that while contractors were working at the plant near the spill site, “they followed all the rules and they do everything right.” It is unclear what the chemical was used for at the facility.
Coca-Cola also apologized to employees and other premises “for any inconvenience this may have caused”, insisting its “first priority is always the safety of our people and nearby residents”.