Chlorine Leak Contained; Businesses, Streets Reopen

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – At least 400 gallons of chlorine leaked from a container at the city wastewater treatment plant on Poland Avenue Monday morning, forcing the closing of streets and highways and the evacuation of nearby businesses  (READ RELATED STORY) .

By 8 a.m. today, all streets and businesses are expected to be open.

The leak occurred shortly after 9 a.m. and was contained by 11:30, says Fire Chief John O’Neill. But businesses remained closed overnight as did Poland Avenue from Gibson to Powersdale avenues as well as the Himrod Avenue Expressway.

The fire chief identified a one-ton tank damaged during a changeover as the likely source of the leak.

“It looks like maybe one of the pipes broke or a fitting broke, so that was off-gassing,” O’Neill said. “It of course filled the building.”

One treatment plant worker at first unaccounted for was taken to St. Elizabeth Youngstown as a precaution, O’Neill confirmed. He did not know the worker’s condition but believes he was the only one injured.

“Right now they have it contained. They have it stopped. But there’s going to be some significant off-gassing for a while now,” he remarked.

The Mahoning County hazardous materials response team and Thomas S. Mirante, wastewater superintendent, were working on a plan to reopen the plant.

During the evacuation, Ziegler Youngstown Tire, 1014 Poland Ave., closed its windows and doors and sent two employees home, reports store manager Stan Gold. Ziegler Tire is about a mile west of the wastewater plant.

Five employees remain edin the building, Gold said, all safe, because the wind iwas blowing the opposite direction, toward Market Street. The winds reduced the levels of gas.

An Environmental Protection Agency staff member stopped in the store, Gold said, to advise on the leak, and city police blocked off Poland Avenue from Center Street to Performance Place. The park is directly across from the wastewater treatment plant.

“Coincidentally, about 10 or 12 years ago, we did exactly this scenario as a mock disaster, almost identical to what’s going on right now,’ O’Neill said.

Among the emergency vehicles at the scene are two fire trucks, hazardous materials crews and equipment, ambulances and St. E’s mobile intensive care unit.

According to information posted on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency website, “Chlorine is the most widely used disinfectant for municipal wastewater because it destroys target organisms by oxidizing cellular material.”

The website states, “All forms of chlorine are highly corrosive and toxic. Thus storage, shipping and handling pose a risk requiring increased safety regulations.”

Reported by George Nelson and Dennis LaRue.

Pictured: Reporters and emergency rescue crews were sequestered on Gibson Avenue overlooking the city’s wastewater treatment plant.

Editor’s Note: This story was updated seven times as events transpired.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.