Ammonia leaking from a faulty valve at a beverage plant caused injuries to a worker, forced officials to evacuate nearby buildings and shut down traffic in a six-block area Tuesday night.
A hazardous-material response crew, dressed in protective suits with air tanks and breathing masks, worked for more than an hour to shut off the leak at the Coca-Cola Bottling Plant, 2269 S. 3270 West.The four-person crew entered the plant about 8:45 p.m. to contain the leak and rescue the injured worker who suffered burns to his arms and respiratory problems. The worker had been attempting to change the valve and was exposed to the toxic chemical, officials said.
The plant worker, whose identity was not released, was transported to Pioneer Valley Hospital. A hospital nursing supervisor said the worker was treated and discharged.
More than 40 plant workers and an undetermined number of employees from nearby businesses were evacuated by West Valley City fire officials. Police also shut off 2100 South to 2700 South and 3200 West to 3270 West as an ammonia odor permeated the area and a small vapor cloud shrouded the plant. An estimated 200 gallons of ammonia escaped, officials said.
The leak, which was contained about 10 p.m., started in the plant's processing room, in the north end of the building, after a corroded valve - used to transport the pressurized chemical into the plant - malfunctioned, said Tony Glezos, West Valley City fire hazardous-material response team coordinator.
Each crew member used two 30-minute air tanks during the operation. The strong north winds that swept the valley Tuesday night helped fire-fighters dissipate the chemical from concentrating and creating breathing problems for the area residents, said West Valley Fire Marshall John Blundell.
The plant has an exterior 1,000-gallon ammonia tank linked to an interior cooling system used during soft drink processing, Blundell said. At one point, fire officials were concerned that tank would also leak. He said the chemical is toxic and is only flammable under certain conditions.
"We're talking about a product that is liquid, that turns into vapor and turns back into liquid again. So we don't know exactly how much has been released," Blundell said.
"I thought we could stop the leak, but you always have the thought that something may go wrong while you are trying to contain any hazardous material incident," Glezos said.
Plant workers were sent home for the evening and a maintenance crew worked to clean up the site. After the leak was contained, the building was ventilated and operations were turned back over to building occupants.
Blundell said fire officials will continue to investigate the accident.