(Seattle – January 15, 2014) During the early hours of January 15, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, at the request of state and local authorities, responded to a reported chlorine gas release at a private residence on Camano Island, Washington, a rural area 60 miles north of Seattle.
According to Camano Island Fire & Rescue (CIFR), who were first on the scene, a local resident was scrapping an old pressurized steel tank, which he believed was empty. Unfortunately it still contained a substantial amount of chlorine gas, some of which was released when he pierced the tank’s inoperable valve. CIFR was notified at 7:30pm (1/14) and responded immediately. Initial responders from Snohomish County Haz-Mat were able to install a temporary cap on the tank and stop the Chlorine release by 12:30 pm.
Initially, 25-30 neighbors were sheltered in place and were later evacuated to a nearby Fire Station when conditions permitted. After several residents reported experiencing symptoms of chemical exposure and respiratory distress, they were quickly transported to Skagit Valley Hospital for examination and treatment. All were released shortly thereafter.
EPA’s On-Scene Coordinator, Michael Sibley, accompanied by technical contractors, arrived on site at 1:30am (1/15) and joined the Incident Command (Camano Island Fire & Rescue, North County Regional Fire Authority, Snohomish County Haz-Mat and the Washington Department of Ecology). EPA’s first task was to immediately begin air monitoring for worker safety at the response site. Monitoring continued overnight, also taking place in some homes nearest to the cylinder.
Most of the evacuated residents were able to return home by 3:30 am, but six homes (inside a 100 ft. perimeter around the leaking tank) were still not safe for occupation by late Wednesday afternoon. At 6:15 pm, an EPA ordered specially-trained tank recovery team arrived on site to isolate, overpack and transport the cylinder for safe disposal.
That process was completed and the site deemed safe for entry at 10:00 pm. Authorities at the scene expect that the remaining evacuated residents will be able to safely return home by 10:30 pm.