Ammonia leak at the Dole plant in Atwater forces evacuation

December 4, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
An ammonia leak at a Dole processing plant in Atwater forced nearby residents out of their homes Tuesday evening.

Emergency crews were called to the plant around 6:40 p.m. after a four inch pipe on the roof broke, releasing about 100 gallons of ammonia into the air. The Merced County Fire Department said employees stopped the leak, called 911, and then began evacuating the plant.

The fire department and Merced County Sheriff's Department also evacuated homes within a one mile radius as a precaution. "It was isolated on the roof itself and with anhydrous ammonia, it comes out like in a plume and goes into the atmosphere and it drifts out with wind direction and that's why we went ahead and did the evacuations just to make sure the public was safe," said Fire Captain Jeremy Rahn with the Merced County Fire Department/Cal Fire.

About 175 employees were in the plant at the time of the leak. No injuries were reported. The evacuation for homes was lifted within a couple of hours. Plant operations are expected to resume Wednesday.

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