No one was injured Thursday morning when a chlorine tank developed a leak in a Georgetown storage facility.
A hazardous materials response team was called to the site according to the town’s procedures for this type of emergency, reports Alan Faler, but the leak was stopped before they arrived. Faler is the chief of the Georgetown Volunteer Fire Department as well as the town’s certified water and waste water operator.
The leak was discovered as Faler and his assistant were mowing grass at the park in preparation for a tent revival scheduled that evening. Faler smelled chlorine near the water well and noticed the grass was dying near some of the extra chlorine tanks in the storage area. The tank may have been leaking for a couple of days before it was discovered, according to Faler. There is a mediation pump in the same area to correct a gasoline leak from about 20 years ago. When Faler read the meter at the water plant earlier that morning, he thought the smell was coming from the mediation pump. But when he later saw the dying grass near the stored tanks, he knew it was coming from the chlorine tanks.
He instructed his assistant to call 911, then Faler put his air pack on, because chlorine is an inhalation hazard, and tried to turn the valve off.
“We did what we’re trained to do,” said Faler. “We got the leak stopped quickly and it dissipated on the ground.”
The library and telephone office nearby were evacuated, but no homes were in the immediate area of the leak. The affected area only extended about 75 feet from the tank, Faler explained. Residents of nearby apartments were warned of a possible evacuation if problems arose when the leaky chlorine tank was removed from the scene, but no residential evacuations were necessary. The company who sold the tanks to the town was contacted and took the leaky tank away later that day.
“It could have been a real bad thing, but it wasn’t,” said Faler, adding that the weather was cool and there was no wind that day, which helped the chlorine gas to dissipate safely.
One of the features of Georgetown’s new emergency siren is a message about a chemical spill. But fortunately they didn’t have to use it this time, Faler said. If an evacuation had been necessary, emergency officials could have used the siren to tell the townspeople what to do.