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Chlorine leak forces evacuations

Smelt plant valve fails; no injuries

– A chlorine leak at an aluminum smelting plant east of New Haven forced firefighters to evacuate 10 homes in the surrounding area Saturday as about 2,000 pounds of the noxious gas escaped from a holding tank.

New Haven-Adams Township firefighters were called to Superior Aluminum Alloys, 14214 Edgerton Road, about 2 p.m. after a valve on one of four 1-ton tanks failed, causing the gas to escape into the building and into the air, said Brian Meeks, Fort Wayne Fire Department battalion chief.

New Haven firefighters called the Fort Wayne hazardous materials team to the scene. Chlorine gas turns to acid and can burn the lungs, eyes and exposed skin of anyone who comes into contact with it, Meeks said.

Ben Eisbart, a vice president at OmniSource Corp., which owns the plant, said the 40 to 45 people working at the time made it out safely and no one had to be hospitalized.

The plant melts scrap aluminum into ingot. Chlorine is an additive used in the melting process, Eisbart said.

New Haven firefighters evacuated 10 homes on Harper Road between Doyle and Berthaud roads as wind blew the gas north of the manufacturing plant, said Chief John Bennett, of the New Haven-Adams Township Fire Department.

Fort Wayne firefighters, who donned hazardous materials suits, entered the building and shut off the valves to the tanks about 4 p.m. After firefighters cut off the leak, a small fire started in the room where the leak originated. Crews quickly put it out with a hand-held fire extinguisher, Meeks said.

It’s unclear how much gas escaped.

Environmental management and safety staff from OmniSource, which is owned by Steel Dynamics Inc., were at the site Saturday, overseeing cleanup and investigating the cause of the chemical leak, Eisbart said.

Residents were able to return safely to their homes early Saturday evening, Bennett said. The leak is not expected to have long-term effects on the environment, he added.

mzennie@jg.net

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