PALATKA, Fla. (From news reports) -- Some workers at Georgia-Pacific's Palatka mill took refuge Wednesday after a toxic gas leak at the facility.
At about 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, a leak of chlorine dioxide caused officials at the plant to order the evacuation of two areas of the facility, according to Georgia-Pacific Public Affairs Manager Mark Brown. Employees went back to work after 45 minutes with no injuries reported.
"At GP, we put safety first always," Brown said. "Our safety processes worked as designed in this event. We will be evaluating the extent of the release, but it appears to be minimal."
Chlorine dioxide gas is used in the mill's paper bleaching operation, Brown said.
Chlorine dioxide is also used in many municipal water supplies as a disinfectant, but breathing high concentrations of the substance in gaseous form can cause respiratory distress, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The gas is heavier than air and travels along the ground with the wind, Brown added.
The gas leaked from the bleaching facility after an internal power failure caused a shutdown of a computer that controls ventilation fans, Brown said.
After the leak was detected, employees evacuated parts of the mill, including the Kraft paper shipping area and the construction site of a plant expansion.
According to the CDC, the gas eventually breaks down and disperses after exposure to sunlight.
Palatka Fire Department was not called for the gas leak, Brown said, but the company notified the National Response Center, a federal government center for reporting chemical spills.
At no time was anyone outside the mill in danger from the gas leak, Brown said.
The gas leak was the second safety hazard at the mill in less than two weeks.
On July 17, fire departments were called to the mill in response to heavy smoke caused by smoldering dust.
No one was injured in last week's emergency.