Update: Hazmat Incident Causes Evacuations

By: Anna-Lysa Gayle Email
By: Anna-Lysa Gayle Email

Edinburg, Va. (WHSV) -- Update (11:35 p.m.)

Things are back to normal for a George's chicken plant, after an ammonia leak forced dozens to evacuate.

Some employees were standing outside for nearly four hours.

What should have been a normal day at this plant on Friday, turned into an unusual scene.

"Saturday night, they were suppose to be switching out the ammonia in the coolers. We were suppose to empty all the chicken and put them on trailers," said Kristoffer George who is an employee at George's chicken plant.

"The fire and EMS got dispatched for an ammonia leak here at George's chicken. This was around 12:30 (p.m.)," said Gary Yew, who is the Chief of the Shenandoah County Fire Department.

At a plant where close to 900 people work, lives were at stake.

Nearly a dozen homes nearby the chicken plant had to be evacuated for the resident's safety.

"Ammonia is an asphyxiant and also under certain conditions, it can also be very flammable, so anybody close to the plant, we just want to make sure they were not exposed to the ammonia," said Yew.

It's something the Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) also takes very seriously.

It categorizes ammonia as 'highly hazardous'. It's one of many things the agency aims to protect workers from.

A human resources manager for the plant says all employees standing outside were paid while the evacuation was underway.

A little after 4 p.m., Shenandoah County Fire Department and George's hazard team determined that it was safe for employees to return to the plant.

Route 42 near the George's chicken plant in Edinburg is also back to normal.

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Originally posted by Jeff Williamson

Senedo Road, Route 42, remains closed due to a hazardous materials incident at George's Chicken.

The plant also remains closed as crews monitor ammonia levels, but occupants have been allowed to return to another business and about six homes after an earlier evacuation.

Before being allowed to return, employees waited outside for four hours without personal belongings

The ammonia leak has been stopped, and there were no injuries as a result of the incident.

"George's did a really good job of evacuating the plant," said Gary Yew, chief of Shenandoah County Department of Fire and Rescue.

Ammonia is used as part of the refrigeration process at the plant. A leak of the gas can present the risk of asphyxiation as well as being a fire hazard at some levels.

George's Chicken has its own hazardous materials team on the scene, and Shenandoah County Department of Fire and Rescue and Edinburg Volunteer Fire Company remain on the scene in a supporting role, along with a hazardous materials specialist from the Virginia Department of Emergency Management. Shenandoah County Sheriff's Office has assisted with evacuations and traffic control.

Conicville and Woodstock fire departments and Woodstock Rescue Squad also responded to the call, which was dispatched at 12:28 p.m. on Friday afternoon, Jan. 31.


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