Almost two dozen people have been taken to local hospitals for evaluation and treatment while emergency responders continue to deal with a leak of anhydrous ammonia at Koch Foods on Paden Road in east Gadsden, according to Gadsden/Etowah County Emergency Management Agency Director Deborah Gaither.
Employees from the plant were being taken by city trolleys to the Gadsden Public Library, Gaither reported at about 6 p.m.
“The weather is not letting the anhydrous ammonia dissipate,” Gaither said. “It’s just hanging there,” she said, making the employee evacuations necessary.
Approximately 22 people have been taken to local hospitals for evaluation and treatment as a precautionary measure
Anhydrous ammonia, a colorless gas with pungent, suffocating fumes, is used as an agricultural fertilizer and industrial refrigerant, according to the Center for Disease Control website. When handled improperly, it can be immediately dangerous to life or health.
GECEMA was notified of the leak at 4:23 p.m., according to a press release from the agency.
Travel was restricted on College Parkway, and a perimeter had been set up a half-mile from the scene where only emergency personnel were allowed. The parkway was reopened just after 7 p.m. Friday.
Evacuated employees of the plant were allowed to return and collect their personal property and were dismissed for the evening.
No evacuations of citizens or residences had occurred as of 7 p.m. There never was any danger to the residents in or around the plant area, according to the GECEMA press release.
Gadsden firefighters, the GFD Hazardous Materials Team, Gadsden police, Glencoe police were among those on the scene, as well as GECEMA personnel and local ambulance services.