Officials say 22 people were hospitalized due to an ammonia leak at Koch Foods in Gadsden Friday night.
At 4:23 p.m., the Gadsden/Etowah County Emergency Management Agency was notified of an anhydrous ammonia leak at Koch Foods on Paden Road in Gadsden, EMA officials said. Gadsden/Etowah County Emergency Management Agency officials said 22 people have been taken to area hospitals. EMA officials said those patients are “being monitored and or treated as a precautionary measure.” The plant was evacuated soon after the leak was reported. Those employees who evacuated and were not hospitalized are now allowed to return to the plant to collect their personal items. Employees will then be dismissed for the evening, EMA officials said. Officials have not said where the leak is coming from or what caused it. “There was never any danger to residents in or around the plant area,” according to the EMA. The Gadsden Fire Department, Gadsden Police Department, Gadsden Fire Department Hazardous Materials Team, Glencoe Police Department and the Gadsden/Etowah County EMA responded to the plant. Emergency officials previously had a half-mile perimeter setup around the Koch Foods. Only emergency officials are allowed within that perimeter. College Parkway has now been reopened. Koch Foods is a chicken processing plant that produces multiple frozen chicken products like chicken strips and nuggets, according to the company website. Anhydrous ammonia is a colorless gas with pungent, suffocating fumes. It’s commonly used as an agricultural fertilizer and industrial refrigerant, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC says the gas can be “immediately dangerous” to life and health if not handled properly.
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