Ammonia leak at Whitehall dairy sends 11 to hospitals
By Aaron Aupperlee
Published: Monday, Aug. 5, 2013, 3:03 p.m.
Paramedics treated 17 people and took 11 to hospitals on Monday when a safety valve released ammonia in the air at Schneider's Dairy in Whitehall.
No one had life-threatening injuries, said Allegheny County Department of Emergency Services Chief Alvin Henderson. Those transported to hospitals went as a precaution, said Whitehall police Chief Donald Dolfi.
Dairy employees reported the valve released about 50 pounds of ammonia, emergency officials said. The valve released the foul-smelling and -tasting gas when pressure in a tank rose to unsafe levels, Dolfi said.
The tanks, where ammonia is stored as a liquid, are designed to release the chemical when pressure rises to prevent an explosion.
“The system appeared to work as it was designed,” Dolfi said.
Inspectors from the Pittsburgh office of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration will investigate the incident, said Chris Robinson, the agency's area director. It was too soon to determine a cause.
Dairy management was not available to comment on the ammonia release. Flanked by single-family homes and manicured lawns, the Schneider's Dairy facility on Frank Street serves as a headquarters and processing plant, according to the dairy's website.
Employees in the offices upstairs said they had to evacuate the building during the afternoon but later returned to work. Ambulances were called to the facility about 1:45 p.m.
Dolfi said pressure in the tank rose because Pennsylvania American Water shut off water on Frank Street while doing work. Water company employees were replacing a valve nearby and had notified all customers on the street of a planned outage, said Gary Lobaugh, a spokesman for the company.
Ron Bouvy, who owns Bouvy Heating & Air Conditioning Services, was working on an air-conditioning unit across the street from the dairy and noticed a pungent smell and sour taste in the air shortly after noon. Bouvy works with ammonia, which is used as a cooling agent, and recognized the smell and taste.
Paramedics evaluated 17 employees at the scene. The 11 patients went to Allegheny General, UPMC Presbyterian and UPMC Mercy hospitals.
The Allegheny County Health Department responded to check air quality and dairy products. No food products were contaminated by the ammonia, Henderson said.
Aaron Aupperlee is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7986 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Panthers free agent safety headed to Steelers
- Orpik rises to occasion as Penguins take down Capitals once again
- Police charge Westmoreland County priest in $124,000 theft case
- Penguins notebook: Letang skating, but no return set
- Figure skating coach dies in crash at Washington County Airport
- Can Pirates star outfielder McCutchen be even better in 2014?
- Starkey: No shame for Robert Morris
- Obamacare dramatically increases costs for some small businesses
- Pitt aware of Carolina schools’ history in dominating ACC Tournament
- Pittsburgh Mayor Peduto proposes $16M for schools to boost population
- Peduto takes down Pittsburgh’s Redd Up crew