Ammonia Release Forces Evacuation of Wailuku Business

July 19, 2016, 6:28 PM HST · Updated July 20, 4:04 PM
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Hazmat truck, file image by Wendy Osher.

Hazmat truck, file image by Wendy Osher.

At 11:20 a.m. on Tuesday, July 19, 2016, firefighters were called to a hazardous materials leak at Maui Soda & Ice Works on Lower Main Street in Wailuku.

At 11:25 a.m., Wailuku firefighters met with company representatives and learned that anhydrous ammonia gas was leaking from a room that housed the storage tanks.

Employees had already evacuated the building when fire crews arrived.

Nearby business’ that called in to report smelling the strong irritant were advised to shelter-in-place by closing all windows and to remain indoors until the leak was fixed. No extended evacuations were ordered and Lower Main Street remained open.

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Two people were evaluated by paramedics for headaches and nausea but were released at the scene.

A hazardous materials team entered the facility using self-contained breathing apparatus’ and found that a relief valve had activated to release excess pressures due to overheated equipment.

Fire crews gave the all-clear after air quality readings were back to normal levels at around 12 noon.

Anhydrous ammonia is commonly used as a refrigerant in large commercial refrigeration applications and is easily detectable by its strong pungent odor.

Maui Soda & Ice Works General Manager Cathy Nobriga Kim released the following statement on Wednesday morning:

“The release of anhydrous ammonia that took place at our Wailuku plant yesterday morning (Tuesday, July 19, 2016) was the result of safety precautions built into our refrigeration system. Three to five pounds of the material was released into the atmosphere after less than optimum temperature conditions were recorded in the room where the substance is stored.

The situation was under control in 40 minutes. No one at our facility was injured. We have not been informed of any illnesses or injuries resulting from the release.

The Maui Fire Department Hazmat Crew was on scene as a safety precaution to further ensure our employees safety before they returned into the building.

Everyone at Maui Soda & Ice Works is sincerely thankful for the assistance of the Maui County Fire Department and grateful that no one either within or outside of our company was injured.”

Engine 1, Hazmat 10 and a battalion chief responded to the incident.

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