Dozens of first responders from across the panhandle spent a few tense hours in Jackson County Thursday. They were working to contain a chemical leak at a utility plant in Sneads.
The initial reports involved a common industrial chemical that, uncontrolled, can be dangerous or even deadly.
Employees of the Sneads waste water treatment plant discovered a pin sized leak Thursday, at the bottom of a rusty, 150 gallon barrel. The barrel contained chlorine, which can be hazardous.
Rodney Andreasen is Jackson County’s Emergency Operations Center Director. "Anytime you have concentrated chlorine it's very dangerous. It can be deadly."
Fortunately none of the employees working around the barrel reported health problems, according to Sneads Police Chief Burt MaAlpin. “This tank has been leaking for a couple of days."
Captain Tim Howard of Bay County Fire Rescued was called out to Jackson County to help with Haz-Mat portion of the situation. "It's only a 150 gallon cylinder. If it's been going for several days it's probably pretty close if not empty by now."
But officials believed it better to err on the side of caution. "We want to make sure that this cylinder doesn't crack open and we have an even greater problem with the chlorine. Right now were just doing this to air on the side of caution and make sure we contain this leak."
Bay County's Haz-Mat and Bomb Squads assessed the situation. They sent-in a remote control robot, fitted with a chlorine detection devise to see if the barrel was still a potential hazard. "It saves our personnel from having to put ourselves in danger we can get a lot of readings from them."
The chlorine detection devices read zero, meaning the chlorine was no longer a danger. "Better to be safe than sorry."
The Haz-Mat team was planning to safely dispose of the barrel. Then employees will be allowed to return to work.