Update: Three still in hospital after ammonia leak at Birds Eye in Darien
WALWORTH COUNTY, Wis. (CBS 58) -- A statement from Bird's Eye says that most of the people taken to the hospital have been released, but three are still there for observation.
The company thanks first responders for helping their employees and "assessing conditions in the plant."
The exact cause of the leak is under investigation.
Updated: 2:50 p.m. July 29, 2018
WALWORTH COUNTY, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Racine Fire Chief Steve Hansen of the Regional HAZMAT Response Team, briefed the media this afternoon about the hazmat response to the Bird’s Eye Food plant in Darien. Hansen said that a mechanical failure is believed to have caused the leak of ammonia gas into the food plant. The exact source of the leak has not yet been found.
Hansen said the 15 people exposed to the gas were taken to five area hospitals. The patients were exposed to the gas and received inhalation related injuries.
HAZMAT crews will remain on the scene for several hours as they search for any residual ammonia gas in the plant. Hansen said the gas is concentrated in specific areas of the plant while other areas are gas free. Various methods are being used to ventilate the plant, including the use of several airboats being used to blow the gas out of the building.
Hansen said neighbors around the plant should not be concerned and all roads in the area are now open to traffic.
Besides OSHA, the EPA has also been notified of this morning’s ammonia leak.
Updated: 2:30 p.m. July 29, 2018
WALWORTH COUNTY, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Walworth County authorities say 15 people have been taken to a local hospital after they were exposed to an ammonia leak in the Bird’s Eye Food plant in Darien this morning. At this time there is no information on the type of injuries suffered or the conditions of the employees.
Walworth County Sheriff Kurt Picknell said the leak was reported around 5:15 AM Sunday. He said there were 140 employees in the plant at the time of the leak. Besides the 15 injured employees, Sheriff Picknell said 75 employees were evaluated at the scene and determined to be okay.
According to Sheriff Picknell, the ammonia leak occurred in one area of the building. The cause of the leak has not been determined, said Sheriff Picknell. Ammonia, he said, is used for refrigeration in the plant.
About 100 emergency personnel from multiple agencies responded to the early morning hazmat call. Sheriff Picknell said crews are going through the building now to determine when it will be safe to return. He said there was no fire and the leak posed no threat to the community.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has been notified of the incident.
Updated: 9:45 a.m. July 29, 2018
WALWORTH COUNTY, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Authorities responded to a hazmat situation at the Bird’s Eye Food plant in Darien early this morning. The Walworth County Sheriff’s Office confirmed there was a report of an ammonia leak at the plant along Walworth County Road X in Darien. The leak was reported around 6 a.m. The road in front of the plant was closed to traffic as hazmat crews from a number of fire departments responded to the situation. The road was reopened to traffic around 9:30 AM.
In a statement just released, Pinnacle Foods, which owns the Bird’s Eye brand, said that several employees were exposed to hazardous materials in the Darien plant and have been taken to a local hospital for treatment. The number of employees injured has not been released. In the statement, the company said, “The safety of our employees is our top priority and focus right now.”
The Walworth County Sheriff’s Office and officials from the Bird’s Eye plant are expected to address the media Sunday morning.
Posted: 7 a.m. July 29, 2018
WALWORTH COUNTY, Wis. (CBS 58) -- The Walworth County Dispatch Center confirms that multiple agencies are responding to a reported ammonia leak.
It reportedly happened early Sunday morning at the plant located on Hwy X in the Village of Darien.
Pinnacle Foods, the owner of Birds Eye, released the following statement:
"There is a situation involving hazardous materials in our plant in Darien, WI. The safety of our employees is our top priority and focus right now. Several employees have been taken to the hospital for medical attention. No further details are available at this time."
CBS 58 News currently has a crew headed to the scene and will bring updates as they become available.
Stay with CBS 58 News for more information on this developing story.