ATCHISON: Dozens of people were treated for respiratory problems after a chemical spill at an MGP Ingredients Inc facility on Friday generated a chemical cloud over the northeastern Kansas city of Atchison before authorities declared the threat over.
Authorities evacuated children from local schools, urged residents to remain in their homes and advised people not to enter the city of about 11,000 people located about 50 miles (80 km) northwest of Kansas City, Kansas. They later said the cloud had dissipated and the danger had passed.
The two chemicals involved in the spill were identified by a city official as sulfuric acid and sodium hypochlorite. MGP Ingredients makes bourbon and rye whiskeys, gins and vodkas, according to its website.
“The cloud was massive,” Atchison Fire Department Chief Ted Graf said. “I’m not even sure how to describe it.”
Thirty-four people were treated for respiratory discomfort after the spill although the injuries were minor, Trey Cocking, Atchison city manager, told reporters. Cocking described the effects of the chemical cloud as being like mustard gas, a chemical weapon.
“I honestly couldn’t tell if it was fog or the chemical cloud,” said Megan Laflin, 24, of Atchison, who shot a video of the cloud from her parents’ house. “I couldn’t see two feet in front of me.”
The incident occurred at around 8 a.m. when the two chemicals were mistakenly mixed at the MGP Ingredients facility after one was brought in by a semi-tractor tanker, Cocking said.
“We are in the process of issuing an all-clear,” Cocking said.
Founded in 1941, MGP Ingredients employs 320 people, according to the company’s website. Officials with the company could not be reached for comment.
Cocking said MGP employees were being allowed to return but it was unclear if the facility would re-open on Friday.