Staff flee Peterborough factory chemical spillage

A decontamination area was set up by hazmat teams attending the chemical spill in Orton Southgate. Picture: DAVID LOWNDES/Peterborough ET
A decontamination area was set up by hazmat teams attending the chemical spill in Orton Southgate. Picture: DAVID LOWNDES/Peterborough ET
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A POTENTIALLY lethal chemical spill injured two workers at a factory yesterday prompting an evacuation and a massive response from emergency services.

Staff at Omega Foundry Machinery Ltd, in Stapledon Road, Orton Southgate, were forced to flee their building when a chemical, originally thought to be ammonia, oozed out of a broken pipe at about 11.30am yesterday.

Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue mobilized its specialist hazardous materials (hazmat) crews from St Neots as well as two other engines and a heavy rescue vehicle, with about 20 firefighters on the scene.

Two workers, who have not been named, were treated at the scene by paramedics for minor inhalation of fumes.

The hazmat team initially believed they were dealing with 50 litres of ammonia, but it was later confirmed to be about 10 litres and thought to be triethylamine.

The chemical is similar to ammonia and has a strong fishy odour which could be smelled on the industrial estate.

Ricky and Melanie Gibbons, who run the Wooden Spoon snack bar on the estate, said: “We didn’t hear anything but just after 11.30am there were suddenly loads of people who had been evacuated.

“They told us someone on a forklift fell off and knocked off a bottle of chemicals. Next thing they knew they were all evacuated.

“There were at least 20 people here. They said one person had to take off his clothes and be hosed down but he was ok, he came here for a cup of tea afterwards.”

The fire service immediately evacuated the factory and a neighbouring building, throwing up a cordon about 100 metres from the incident site.

Police closed off the road at the junction with Newcombe Way, while paramedics from the East of England Ambulance Services’ hazardous area response team (Hart) were also on the scene.

The hazmat team set up a decontamination area immediately outside the factory which could be used to clean off anyone who went inside.

Firefighters in full protective clothing were seen entering the building and then used sand to soak up the liquid to make the scene safe.

They treated it as if it was triethylamine, which is said to be highly flammable and harmful if inhaled, in contact with the skin or swallowed.

Omega Foundry Machinery refused to comment on the incident but said it was back to business as usual.

Staff at A&E at Peterborough City Hospital were put on standby in case the incident escalated, but they were not needed.

A spokesman for the ambulance service said: “Two casualties were assessed for inhaling a substance and both were deemed well enough to not go to hospital.”

Firefighters and paramedics were stood down from the scene at about 2pm when workers were allowed back into the factory.

The Health and Safety Executive said it had not yet been informed of the incident.