SHEFFIELD, Ala. - Residents were evacuated in parts of Sheffield early Sunday morning.
According to Lt. Ivy with the Sheffield Police Department, a 150-lb cylinder of chlorine gas leaked due to a mechanical error at the Sheffield Wastewater Treatment Plant.
Officials told WHNT News 19 the plant has two of the cylinders set up in an automatic swap-over configuration, meaning the second cylinder swaps over after the first one is emptied as part of the water treatment process.
The first cylinder was emptied per protocol, and the second swapped over. However, the two workers monitoring the process noticed the leak after the swap-over and immediately notified a supervisor.
Crews from the Colbert County EMA, local hazmat and the Huntsville Regional Hazmat teams all responded to the leak.
Those crews told WHNT News 19 they monitored gas levels where the leak happened and nearby areas where people lived.
According to a Facebook post from Sheffield Police, residents in the village, Watts Bar, the bell, and areas along the river were told to evacuate around 1:30 a.m. due to a chlorine spill.
In addition to the Facebook post, police said they went door-to-door, driving through neighborhoods using their sirens and PA systems to urge evacuations.
The Red Cross was called in and temporarily opened the Sheffield Rec Center as a relocation center.
Authorities required people near the plant, but outside of the evacuation area, to turn off their AC to secure their house from the dangerous gas.
Ivy further stated nobody was injured in the evacuation and Sunday morning's incident was the first of its kind in nearly 30 years.
All residents returned to their homes by daybreak.
A team from Florida worked throughout the day Sunday to get the plant back online.
The Alabama Department of Environmental Management and Environment Protection Agency have been notified of the incident.
Plant officials said the entire 150-lb cylinder leaked into the air.
Plant officials also said there was a third, 2000-lb cylinder of chlorine gas at the plant. However, they stated that cylinder remained intact.
According to the EPA, when liquid, pressurized chlorine is released it turns into a gas that stays close to the ground and spreads rapidly.
Chlorine gas can damage moist tissues such as the eyes, throat, and lungs.
Symptoms of chlorine exposure include:
- Blurred vision
- Burning pain, redness, and blisters on skin
- Burning sensation in nose, throat, and eyes
- Chest tightness
- Difficulty breathing
- Fluid in the lungs after a few hours
- Watery eyes