UPDATE: No ill effects reported after Haverhill gas cloud drama
PUBLISHED: 14:03 19 July 2011 | UPDATED: 14:05 19 July 2011
FIRE crews scrambled to chemical spill.
SUFFOLK’s fire and rescue service will be liaising closely with a fragrance firm to ensure an incident which led to a gas cloud being released from chemicals is not repeated.
Residents in Haverhill were told to keep their windows and doors closed after a tanker delivering aluminium chloride to International Flavours and Fragrances (IFF) in the town, spilt its contents at about 12.40pm yesterday.
About 240 staff at the firm’s factory on Duddery Hill were evacuated when half a ton of the chemical spilled from the delivery truck onto the floor.
Aluminium chloride is a white powder which can cause irritation to the eyes, skin and the respiratory system if breathed or touched.
Group manager John Wilcock said fire crews from Haverhill, Bury St Edmunds and Ixworth, wearing chemical protection suits and specialist breathing equipment, were called to the incident about 12.49pm.
As they arrived they noticed gas being released as a result of the powder’s reaction with rainwater.
The powder was quickly covered in a bid to prevent further gas escaping.
As part of fire service’s response to the incident, a controlled experiment was carried out in which a shovel with water was poured onto the powder. A small amount of the toxic gas was released - though fire chiefs maintain this did not leave the controlled area.
Speaking today, area manager Carl Francis said had rain got to the powder a “substantial gas cloud” could have been created.
He said: “We are now convinced there was never any off-site risk but we needed to be cautious. We don’t believe that anybody was affected by the vapour cloud.”
A spokesman for Suffolk County Council initially issued a warning for residents on the town’s Chalkstone estate, the Wilsey estate and Roman Way to stay indoors with windows and doors closed until further notice.
Staff at all 11 schools in the town were told to keep pupils inside as the gas plume floated downwind across the town.
The substance was covered by fire crews to protect it from the elements and left to harden overnight.
Fire crews left the scene around 7pm.