HazMat crews rushed to the Winebrenner Wastewater Treatment Plant near Fort Ritchie on Monday morning after a malfunctioning valve caused chlorine to leak from a 150-gallon tank, according to Kevin Jones, a rescue sergeant with Leitersburg Volunteer Fire Co.
He said the leak posed no danger to residents in the area.
Emergency personnel received a call shortly after 7:30 a.m. for a chlorine leak that caused a cloud to form inside a building on the property, but Jones said the cloud had dissipated by the time responders arrived.
“This is something that apparently was going on last night” and continued into Monday morning, Jones said.
About 4 pounds of chlorine escaped before responders discovered the leak was coming from a valve on the tank, Jones said. Once they knew the cause of the leak, they were able to remedy the situation.
He said there was no need to evacuate residents living nearby.
Jones said the county maintenance workers went to the plant after an alarm notified them of a problem.
“They told me they cracked the door, saw a cloud and closed the door,” he said.
Some chlorine apparently escaped because a small patch of grass just outside the building was killed, he said.
A faint smell of chlorine was evident for a time outside the building.
The maintenance workers, who were uninjured, were checked by medical personnel as a precaution, Jones said.
The Washington County HazMat team remained at the scene after firefighters left.
Jones said emergency protocol requires officials to evacuate people a half-mile in each direction during a major incident, which an emergency response manual describes as a problem involving a unit the size of a tanker.
Julie Pippel, director of the Washington County Division of Environmental Management, said in an email that the environment wasn’t damaged as a result of the leak.
“Repairs have been made to the system and the plant is fully functional,” Pippel said.
She said Monday’s incident was the first time a precautionary emergency response was needed at the plant since Washington County started operating it in the early 1990s.
“Chlorine is utilized in the wastewater treatment plant to provide disinfection of bacteria in the wastewater prior to being discharged into the receiving stream,” Pippel said. “The use of chlorine is a typical use in fixed-film wastewater processes for disinfection purposes.”
Pippel said the Winebrenner plant is scheduled for upgrades in about two years. As part of the upgrade, she said, the chlorine disinfection system will be replaced by an ultraviolet disinfection system.