Officials: Chlorine leak response at WPAFB lasted 3 hours

People in two Wright-Patterson Air Force Base facilities were forced to shelter in place Wednesday due to a chemical leak.

At 12:15 p.m., the Wright-Patt Fire Department responded to an alarm in building 855, a water treatment facility in Area A of the base, spokeswoman Marie Vanover said via email. There, first responders found a 150-pound cylinder of chlorine leaking and immediately cordoned off the surrounding area.

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Exposure to high concentrations of chlorine can cause blurred vision, blisters, coughing, nausea and vomiting, among other symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“As the cylinders are in an unoccupied facility, there are sensors to detect a leak and send an alarm to Emergency Response Forces which is what happened this time. Once emergency responders arrived they cordoned off the affected area to ensure there was no danger to anyone. The response lasted approximately three hours,” a base spokesman said.

People in buildings 825 and 826, both housing facilities, sheltered in place while repairs were being made, Vanover said. Air handling systems at Wright-Patterson Medical Center were also shut off, with the exception of operating rooms.

An “all clear” was given at 2:15 p.m. But, at 2:50 p.m. another cylinder was found to have been leaking and people in buildings 825 and 826 were told to shelter in place. The base hospital’s air system was also shut off again temporarily, according to the base.

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No injuries were reported though two contractors were evaluated on scene and cleared for any possible contamination from the chlorine. The area has been contained and has returned to normal operations, according to the base.

The chlorine cylinders are hydrostatically inspected by the supply vendor every five years, by law, and are tagged accordingly. Additionally, they are checked by certified water operators daily as part of their operating protocol, a spokesman said.

People on base were alerted via the base’s emergency notification system which sends popups on computer screens, e-mails, text messages and robo-calls based on the user’s preference.

A chemical spill a year ago prompted a similar response at Wright-Patt.

On May 18, emergency medical technicians evaluated nine people after 55 gallons of phosphoric acid spilled near the Air Force Research Laboratory’s building 620 in Area B, a base spokeswoman said at the time.


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