MADISON, Neb. — About 40 workers were treated for ammonia exposure at a pork plant here Thursday night.
Gary Mickelson, a Tyson Foods spokesman, said the company was investigating the cause of the leak that occurred at the company’s pork processing plant Thursday just before 8 p.m.
“The plant was not in full production at the time. However, there were about 150 people present, and most of them were working in our second-shift ham boning operation,” Mickelson said. “There was an evacuation. As a precaution, 40 workers were taken to local hospitals for evaluation. They have all been released.”
Tyson maintenance workers repaired the ammonia line involved in the leak, Mickelson said. Ammonia is used as a part of the plant’s refrigeration system, he said.
The plant, which employs about 1,100 people, was not damaged and was operating Friday.
Ten people were transported by ambulances to Faith Regional Health Services in Norfolk at 8:45 p.m. Faith Regional activated its emergency operations plan.
“Patients were quickly assessed for severity of inhalation and potential contamination,” said Kelly Driscoll, vice president of patient care services. “All 10 patients were found to suffer from minor chemical inhalation, were treated and then released.”
Dianna McElfresh, marketing coordinator and public information officer for the Columbus Community Hospital, said about 30 workers from the Tyson plant were treated.
McElfresh said workers began arriving about 9:30 p.m. by ambulance, and all were treated by about midnight. Because of the number of patients, the hospital called in its incident command staff.
The incident command staff consists of extra physicians and nurses along with decontamination crews.
The Madison Fire Department had about 35 people at a controlled burn of a house when the call came in for the ammonia leak. Most of them responded to the leak.
Other fire departments, including the Norfolk Fire Division, also responded to the leak.
Copyright 2012 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.