(TheConservativeTimes.org) – Close to 30 people had to be hospitalized after two incidents of leaks of anhydrous ammonia at the La Quesera Mexicana cheese plant in Greeneville, Tennessee.
The leak occurred during maintenance activities on a valve, according to Todd Smith, Greeneville City Manager. Greeneville, which lies around 70 miles from Knoxville, has a population of around 15,000.
There were two incidents when a leak occurred, each happening just a few hours apart from each other. The first resulted in the hospitalization of six people. The first leak, which was determined to come from a broken valve outside of the factory building, was contained and the scene was considered “safe” to work in again.
However, the second leak resulted in 23 more people being sent to the hospital and 53 more employees screened for possible illness. Officials said that the second leak occurred when the valves were turned on again after the first leak, but originated at another area in the facility.
Exposure to anhydrous ammonia can cause anything from irritation to severe damage in the lungs and can burn people’s eyes, throat, mouth, and skin.
The sudden influx of patients saw Johnson City Medical Center and Greeneville Community Hospital put up incident command centers to better manage patient care, with medical staff working together with emergency responders. The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency also provided assistance. Some patients were also taken to the Newport Medical Center.
Both leaks have since been repaired and officials said that there is no danger to the community. HAZMAT teams were also dispatched to sweep the factory to make sure that there was no trace of the dangerous chemical left.
News outlets also reported that most of the patients who had to be taken to the hospital have since been discharged and allowed to return home.
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