Many of those affected were from a nearby Beaulieu of America plant, said Dalton Fire Chief Bruce Satterfield. A ruptured disc off of an over-pressurized chemical tank blew through the roof at MFG and through the side of the Beaulieu building. One passing motorist was also decontaminated, Satterfield said.
Police and fire department spokesman Bruce Frazier said six people were inside the MFG building when the rupture occurred around 8:15 a.m., but none were affected.
“They were making a substance called Coagulant 129, which if you get it on you can cause skin irritation and respiratory irritation,” he said “No one was hurt and there was no vapor cloud.”
Satterfield shied away from terming the event an explosion.
“That’s not really true,” he said. “I’m sure some of the neighbors may say, ‘I heard an explosion,’ but that will be listed as an ‘over-pressure’ or a rupture. There’s two things on a reactor that will blow off — and they’re made to blow off to keep the whole tank from exploding — and one of those is a ‘rupture disc’ and the other is a ‘manway.’ Both of those are made at certain pressures to blow off and that keeps the whole tank from becoming a bomb.”
Satterfield said the reactor began building pressure and workers had flooded the outside with water in an emergency measure to cool the tank down and lower the pressure.
‘My understanding is that they sorta saw this coming in the end when the water didn’t bring the pressure down,” he added. The top of the tank ruptured and sent the disc — which was slightly less than the size of a hula hoop and weighed between 80 and 100 pounds — through the roof and into the Beaulieu plant.
“Thank goodness no one was in the way to get hit by it,” said Satterfield. “But there was a lot of the yellow chemical around and it got on some people.”
He reported the yellow liquid flowed southwest out of the plant into the street about 1,000 to 1,300 feet.
A “Code Red” alert — where individuals and businesses can sign up on the county website (www.whitfieldcountyga.com) for weather and emergency alerts through cellphones and text messaging — went out to residents in the area within a half-mile of the scene, warning them to stay inside, but the advisory was lifted around 11:30 a.m., Frazier said.
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