Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Chlorine leak shuts down shifts at two Zeeland plants in Michigan

A leaking chlorine tank shut down two Zeeland businesses and sent seven people to area hospitals on Tuesday afternoon. No one was seriously injured, according to Zeeland Fire Chief Bill Gruppen.

The leak happened at the Mead Johnson Nutrition Co. plant at 725 E. Main Ave. in Zeeland. East Main Street, between Fairview and Sanford, was closed for several hours for the safety of emergency workers.

Mead Johnson Nutrition Co. spokesman Christopher Perille said that the chlorine gas is part of the plant’s water-treatment system. An automatic detection system sensed the leak and alerted authorities.

“As a precautionary measure, they cleared the immediate area in the production area around the leak,” he said.

Eight employees who may have been affected by the leak were treated at the site, Perille said.

Ambulances took five of those people to Zeeland Hospital and two to Holland Hospital for further evaluation.

The 150-pound chlorine tank was leaking from a valve, Gruppen said. It was not clear how much of the gas was in the container. Chlorine, which is commonly used to sanitize drinking and pool water, can cause a burning sensation in a person’s eyes, throat and lungs; long-term exposure can damage human tissues.

Perille didn’t know how many people were at the Zeeland facility at the time of the leak but said “the safety procedures and processes that were in place seemed to work.” About 325 people are employed at the multi-shift plant, he said. Read More