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Chemical leak in Fond du Lac stopped; evacuation ends

Hazmat teams and plant workers are credited with stopping the leak, believed to be chlorine, at Milk Specialties
Published: Apr. 7, 2022 at 12:10 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 7, 2022 at 10:38 PM CDT
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FOND DU LAC, Wis. (WBAY) - Fond du Lac’s fire chief says the chemical leak at Milk Specialties has been stopped and people who were evacuated are being allowed back in their homes.

Fond du Lac Fire teams responded to a hazmat situation at Milk Specialties late Thursday morning. It was reported as a chlorine leak at about 11:38 a.m. “Although the exact concentration and type of gas is not known, it’s believed to contain chlorine,” Fire Chief Peter O’Leary said earlier Thursday afternoon.

O’Leary credited employees from the plant and fire crews, saying they “were able to safely bring this incident to an end” and there were no injuries.

The building is located at 325 Tompkins St. Mandatory evacuations were ordered in the area of Ruggles Street to the north, S. Hickory to the west, and Grove to the south. A nearby railroad line was also closed off as a precaution and delivery trucks were prevented from entering the neighborhood.

“It’s tedious work,” Chief O’Leary said. “It takes time because these hazardous materials incidents if you make a mistake it could be a fatal one, so we do a lot of things out of precaution and safety being number one.”

The fire chief said there was a big, yellow plume above the plant at one point Thursday afternoon. “The plume has greatly dissipated,” the fire department announced at 4:39 P.M., but the leak wasn’t stopped at that point and it still wasn’t safe to let people back in their homes.

“One of the concerns we have is what the wind is doing on days like today. When the air is thick and there’s little wind it’s actually harder because those vapors end up not dissipating in the atmosphere as fast,” O’Leary said.

What caused the leak is still under investigation. Firefighters say an investigation could take several days. Members of OSHA were also at the scene.

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Shawn Schaumberg was among those who were told to leave.

“A lot of cop sirens. I did over at Milk Specialties see the yellow cloud of smoke coming from the factory,” he said. “I have asthma, so it did send me to the E.R. as an asthma attack.”

“We understand that today’s event disrupted many people’s daily routines and haunted railway traffic for several hours. Safety always has to outweigh the inconveniences these types of events place on us all. We appreciate everyone’s cooperation and understanding,” O’Leary wrote announcing the leak was stopped.

Milk Specialties is a manufacturer that works in whey proteins, milk proteins and specialty proteins.

There's no indication yet when people will be allowed back inside the evacuation zone
There's no indication yet when people will be allowed back inside the evacuation zone

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