Families allowed to go home after chemical leak

Residents allowed to return home as crews drain leaking West Texas chemical tank; no injuries

Associated Press
Families allowed to go home after chemical leak
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In this photo provided by Bayer CropScience, a trailer is parked at the Bayer CropScience facility near Lubbock, Texas in early May, 2013. Hazardous materials experts were working to stop the leak of hydrogen chloride from the tank that forced the evacuation beginning Wednesday, May 8, 2013 of about 100 families. The chemical leak continued unabated Thursday and nearby residents were still being kept away from their homes as a precaution. (AP Photo/Bayer CropScience, Monty Christian) NO SALES

LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) -- Residents were allowed to return to their homes Thursday after they were forced to spend the night elsewhere when their Lubbock neighborhood was evacuated because of a leaking chemical tank.

No injuries were reported, but about 100 families were forced from their homes Wednesday evening by the leaking tank of corrosive hydrogen chloride at a Bayer CropScience outlet near Interstate 27. Hazardous materials experts worked through the day Thursday to contain the leak.

Finally, a hose was connected to the leaking tank and crews began draining the contents into another tank, Lubbock Fire Marshal Robert Loveless said.

The transfer could take up to two days, Loveless said. The area immediately surrounding the leak remains sealed off, including a few businesses but no homes.

The Lubbock school district cancelled classes at a nearby elementary school because streets around it were closed, district spokeswoman Nancy Sharp said.

When hydrogen chloride is exposed to moisture in the air it forms hydrochloric acid, which can be corrosive to skin and dangerous to lungs if inhaled, Lubbock fire officials said.

Investigators were trying to determine what caused the leak. Company employees noticed a leak from an apparent faulty valve on one of six tanks on a trailer in a parking area outside of the facility.

The vapor formed after hydrogen chloride meets moisture is heavier than air and will sink or be dispersed by winds, Loveless said.

The tank that is leaking has a 3,000-pound capacity and is under pressure. The gas is not explosive, though "it's still a pressurized vessel and deserves respect" as to its potential for danger, Loveless said.

Bayer CropScience spokesman Monty Christian said the chemical is used to remove lint from cotton seed.

Christian says the leaking cylinder is from AirGas and that the company is providing the hazmat experts.

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