A voluntary evacuation for some Salina residents was issued Wednesday morning following a chemical leak of anhydrous ammonia at the Schwan’s plant.
Saline County officials said on its Facebook page that it was not mandatory and was for residents west of the facility. The plant is located on the city’s southwest side at 3019 Scanlan Ave.
The Facebook post, which went up just before 6 a.m., said an evacuation center was in the process of being set up.
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Chuck Blomberg, a Schwan spokesman, said in an e-mail that the leak was discovered at about 2:20 a.m. Wednesday morning and contained about three hours later. All employees were evacuated from the facility immediately after the company learned of the leak, Blomberg said.
As of about 8 a.m., two Schwan’s employees had received medical treatment as a “precaution.” Both employees had been treated and released, Blomberg said.
“We do not yet know the impact of today’s events on our operations,” Blomberg said. “Our first priority is to provide our employees with a safe work environment. We requested assistance from local emergency crews and we thank them for their response.”
Blomberg said that ammonia is used in production at the plant – which primarily is used to make pizzas – as a refrigerant for frozen food. He said the cause of the leak is still under investigation.
According to a release from Saline County Emergency Management sent at 8:45 a.m., the American Red Cross opened an evacuation sites at the First Covenant Church, 2625 E. Magnolia, and the First Southern Baptist Church, 2401 S. Ohio, in Salina.
When ammonia enters the body as a result of breathing, swallowing or skin contact, it reacts with water to produce ammonium hydroxide. This chemical is very corrosive and damages cells in the body on contact, according to the release.
Jennifer Bradford-Vernon said in an email that Schilling Elementary in Salina will be closed today because of the leak. No other district buildings have been closed, Bradford-Vernon said.
Just after 6 a.m. on Wednesday, Trooper J.L. Riedel said on Twitter that the odor of ammonia could be smelled by travelers along I-135 near south Salina.