Calif. fire officials: 50 sickened, 5 hospitalized from toxic gas leak at processing facility

Officials said two chemicals used to clean equipment leaked and combined


Lompoc Record, Calif.

SANTA MARIA, Calif. — At least 50 workers were sickened and five were hospitalized Saturday as a result of a toxic gas that formed after two cleaning chemicals were inadvertently mixed inside a facility near Blosser and Stowell roads, according to a Santa Maria Fire spokesman.

Dispatchers received a call from a facility on La Brea Avenue at about 3 a.m. after workers inside a fruit and vegetable processing facility were cleaning equipment using two chemicals that leaked into a self-contained drain and combined, according to Santa Maria Fire Capt. Evan Scott.

The Santa Maria Fire Department, American Medical Response and Santa Barbara County Hazardous Materials Unit responded to a toxic gas leak that left 50 sickened and 5 hospitalized this weekend. (Photo/Santa Barbara County Fire Department)
The Santa Maria Fire Department, American Medical Response and Santa Barbara County Hazardous Materials Unit responded to a toxic gas leak that left 50 sickened and 5 hospitalized this weekend. (Photo/Santa Barbara County Fire Department)

Scott did not identify the name of the processing facility.

At least three Santa Maria Fire units, including an engine and a battalion chief, and an American Medical Response ambulance responded to the location, which had several workers who evacuated the building.

Upon arriving, Scott found a "chaotic" scene, with several workers suffering from acute respiratory illness as a result of the toxic gases.

Most workers refused medical treatment after their conditions improved once they were exposed to fresh air, while five were transported to Marian Regional Medical Center for further treatment, according to Scott.

Scott did not identify the chemicals that were mixed but consulted the Santa Barbara County Hazardous materials Unit, which advised to keep the building empty for at least three hours to allow fumes to clear.

Because the drain was self-contained, there was no risk to the environment or public safety, Scott said.

The company, which also was not identified, cleaned the spill, according to Scott.

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©2020 Lompoc Record, Calif.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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