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Hazmat crews find Galloway plant’s air OK after chemical mix prompts evacuations

Published: Dec. 23, 2020 at 1:19 PM CST|Updated: Dec. 23, 2020 at 8:49 PM CST
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NEENAH, Wis. (WBAY) - Emergency crews are expected to leave the Galloway plant on Commercial St. soon after a chemical incident Wednesday afternoon sent three workers to the hospital and prompted the evacuation of surrounding homes.

Fire Chief Kevin Kloehn told us Wednesday evening, “Right now we have the hazmat crews working in teams, and they’ve been going inside the plant just to verify the air quality inside. So far they have not picked up any atmosphere that is dangerous to breathing levels.”

Kloehn said EMS crews were called about noon for an employee feeling sick. When the paramedics realized it was from a chemical reaction, they called in Neenah-Menasha Fire/Rescue and hazardous materials teams and evacuated the plant. The worker and two others were taken to a hospital, where they were treated and released within a few hours.

The fire chief says a tanker truck carrying chlorine unloaded it into the wrong tank, mixing it with acid.

“The big worry is that it was going to form some kind of chlorine gas, and that of course is very dangerous,” Kloehn said, “and so they are trying to figure out -- they are going through right now, preparing to make entry so they can start testing the chemical and test the air quality.” Chlorine gas can burn the lungs if inhaled.

With the wind blowing from the south, emergency crews evacuated people for about two blocks to the north, northeast and northwest of the Galloway plant. The American Red Cross set up a reception center at Shattuck Middle School. The Red Cross says four families took advantage of the center, which offered snacks, water and a place to charge mobile devices until people could return to their homes. It closed at about 5 P.M.

Hazmat teams from Appleton and Oshkosh plugged drains in the plant to prevent gases from seeping into the sewer, then worked on determining what chemical mixture was created and whether the air in the Galloway facility was safe to breathe.

Emergency crews were standing by Wednesday evening as crews prepared to transport the chemical mixture away from the area.

“There was never any issue as far as a plume or any type of gas that was released except that just a little bit of the initial one that caused the employees to be sick,” Kloehn said.

Galloway describes the company as an “innovative leader in liquid processing of sweetened condensed milk.”

Commercial Street from Winneconne to Division is current closed in the City of Neenah due to a current incident at a local business.

Posted by Neenah-Menasha Fire Rescue on Wednesday, December 23, 2020

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