Salisbury- During the day shift on Thursday, September 24, 2020, a Water Operator at the City of Salisbury’s Paleo Water Treatment Plant identified a gaseous chlorine leak after he entered the chlorine cylinder room to swap out an empty chlorine cylinder as part of his normal shift operations.
The employee immediately notified the Water Treatment Plant Assistant Superintendent, who contacted the Salisbury Fire Department. The employee who identified the leak and was exposed to the chlorine was sent to Tidal Health Peninsula Regional for an evaluation per protocol, where he received oxygen and has already been released in stable condition.
The Salisbury Fire Department, in conjunction with the Delmar Fire Department, responded swiftly and contained the chlorine leak completely and safely. Two members of the hazmat response team capped off the 150-pound cylinder of gaseous chlorine with a leak containment kit. The cylinder, now safely secured, will be transported back to the chlorine distributor. There were no injuries to humans or the environment and no damage to any property or equipment as a result of this incident. The Water Treatment Plant has been cleared to return to normal operations.
“I am so proud of the Water Works team for quickly acting when they realized there was a chlorine leak at our Water Plant. All protocols were followed and no one was hurt. You can continue to count on this team to bring the safest water to your tap,” shared City Administrator Julia Glanz. “Additionally we couldn’t have returned to normal operations without the support of our Salisbury Fire Department Hazmat Team. Thank you SFD and Delmar Fire Department for making sure this leak was contained and no one was injured,” she added.
The City of Salisbury Department of Water Works uses gaseous chlorine to disinfect the water as part of the treatment process in very controlled and diluted amounts. Gaseous chlorine is poisonous and classified as a pulmonary irritant. It has intermediate water solubility with the capability of causing acute damage to the upper and lower respiratory tract, and as such, it has the potential to be very hazardous. In order to prevent harm to humans or the environment, the Paleo Water Treatment Plant is equipped with a large chlorine scrubber that automatically detects and neutralizes chlorine gas in the air as soon as it is leaked in the event of an incident such as this.
The chlorine scrubber functioned properly in this case, and it had the capacity to scrub the entire chlorine room of the gas as it continued to leak from the cylinder, but because the leak was so slow, the decision was made out of an abundance of caution to remove the cylinder altogether rather than allow it to continue to leak and be scrubbed until empty.