12 casualties after 500-litre chemical spill at food factory
Three people had to be decontaminated after a 500-litre chemical acid spill at a food producer on an industrial estate in Launceston yesterday morning.
Around 40 firefighters from five fire stations, and a decontamination unit with specialist officers, some wearing gas tight suits, spent the large part of the morning tackling the incident at Kensey Foods, on the Pennygillam Industrial Estate.
Initially 12 casualties were reported following the spillage of paraesthetic vinegar-based organic acid, with four decontaminated and then treated by paramedics, with one heading to hospital for further treatment.
According to reports, injuries ranged from breathing difficulties to minor chemical burns. It is believed that the clear solution was being stored near a waste processing area in an IPC unit when another chemical spilled in to it producing enough of a reaction for it to boil over causing a spillage around the unit shortly before 6am.
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The nearby B3254 at Western Road and the link road junction were closed in both directions and the site did not reopen until the afternoon while a clean-up took place involving fire crews and a waste disposal firm.
Speaking at the scene, incident commander Richard Gibbons, told the Western Morning News the fire service responded to the chemical spillage with its appropriate HAZMAT response.
He said: "Four employees have been affected by this incident. The crews went about decontaminating them before they received medical attention.
"They have been discharged. They were all walking wounded.
"We then entered the clear-up phase of the operation, in order to do that we received advice from the chemical manufacturer, who told us to wash it down and stop the run-off.
"We have contacted a waste disposal firm, we will wash it down while they pick it up."
A 50-metre cordon was set up around the area and all roads to the industrial estate closed, with Devon and Cornwall Police and the Environment Agency are also at the scene.
After initial fears, it was confirmed waste and recycling collections will still take place in Launceston later in the day, but the postal service in the town was affected.
A spokesman from Cornwall Council said that scheduled waste and recycling collections were delayed in Launceston but that the household waste recycling centre was reopened after initially closing.
A spokeswoman for Kensey Foods, a producer of high quality private label chilled desserts and quiche, said: "Just before 6am this morning staff became aware of a suspected chemical spill in a small section close to our waste processing area.
"The Fire Brigade were called. Three people were taken to hospital as a precautionary measure for checks."