Columbus, OH Refinery Leak Prompts Evacuations

A <"">toxic gas leak from the Heartland Petroleum LLC refinery in Columbus, Ohio resulted in the evacuation of 4,000 people from the surrounding neighborhood yesterday. According to The Columbus Dispatch, the leak produced a hydrogen sulfide cloud.

The leak occurred about 8:00 a.m. yesterday at Heartland’s motor-oil recycling plant at 4001 E. 5th Ave. According to The Columbus Dispatch, police closed E. 5th between Stelzer and Hamilton roads while firefighters investigated. The refinery is part of a large industrial development area near Port Columbus International Airport.

No homes were evacuated, the Associated Press said. However, several businesses, including a DSW Inc. shoe warehouse and a building belonging to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, which houses the state’s Unemployment Compensation Call Center, were shut down. The evacuation order was lifted at 4:00 p.m. yesterday.

Though hydrogen sulfide dissipates quickly, exposure to a high concentration could cause eye irritation or respiratory problems and, death in rare cases with a high enough exposure. The Columbus Dispatch reported that three people were treated for minor symptoms at the scene, and one person was taken to Ohio State University Medical Center.

A spokesperson for Heartland told the Dispatch that the leak was a result of a power failure that initiated a restart process at the refinery and caused a “gasket to blow” on one of the tanks at the facility. According to American Electric Power, a squirrel did in fact trip a breaker shortly before the leak at Heartland occurred. The breaker reset itself after approximately five to 10 minutes, and the outage did not last long.

According to the Associated Press, The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating the incident.

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