Ammonia leak contained at Velcro USA ; no injuries reported
By PAT GROSSMITH New Hampshire Union Leader
A MANCHESTER POLICE cruiser sits outside Velcro USA where firefighters are trying to contain an ammonia leak in a 2,000-gallon tank. DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER
MANCHESTER - It took firefighters about three hours to stop a leak in an 8,000 gallon tank of ammonia Thursday morning at Velcro USA but no one was injured and no one was endangered, according to a fire official.
District Fire Chief Al Poulin said an alarm went off in the 20-by-40-foot out-building just before 8 a.m., bringing about a half-dozen firetrucks, several ambulances and the hazmat team to the 406 Brown Ave. complex off Sundial Avenue. No one was inside the building which sole purpose is to protect the tank from the weather, Poulin explained.
Hazmat team and firefighters donned "Level A" or encapsulated suits to enter the building to shut off what was thought to be a leaking valve on the tank. The protective suits are resistant to the gas, Poulin explained.
The emergency workers quickly discovered, however, that the valve was not the problem but rather a braided stainless steal fitting had become loose, causing the anhydrous ammonia to leak at a rate of about 30 gallons per hour, according to fire officials.
"They tightened the fitting and stopped the leak," Poulin said. Firefighters also poured water on the tank and into the berm, underneath the tank inside the building, to dilute the ammonia. The solution is to be removed by Clean Harbors.
Poulin said some vapors escaped the building but because there was low humidity and a "good gust of wind" it dissipated quickly. As a result, the nearby Elmwood Gardens housing complex did not need to be evacuated.
Some workers near the "danger zone" were moved to a safe area on the Brown Avenue side while windows and doors were shut in four other buildings at the Velcro complex, Poulin said.
Exposure to anhydrous ammonia, which is classifed as toxic and dangerous to the enviroment, can result in severe injury or death.
Velcro uses it as an additive to diesel generators for its power plant, Poulin said.