Mandatory evacuation order lifted after chlorine gas leak at Buckhannon water plant Friday

BUCKHANNON — A mandatory evacuation order near the Buckhannon water plant was lifted at 1:15 p.m. Friday after emergency responders resolved a chlorine gas leak detected at the plant earlier in the day.

The chemical emergency was initially reported at 11:45 a.m. Friday after a leak was detected at the Harley A. Brown Memorial Water Plant during the test of a chlorine valve. The Buckhannon Fire Department HAZMAT team responded, while the Buckhannon Police Department provided traffic control on Wood Street and Upshur County EMS staged nearby. Other city workers were called in to help assist nearby residents in the one-block mandatory evacuation area.

No injuries were immediately reported, and city water, which is stored in tanks around Upshur County, remains safe to drink.

Buckhannon mayor Robbie Skinner said the city is waiting on parts to completely fix the issue, but he assured residents that their current water service is unaffected and there is no need conserve or boil water. There should be no interruption of service as the issue is fixed, he added.

The Harley A. Brown Memorial Water Plant can treat and monitor a maximum of 5.76 million gallons of water, with an average daily production of nearly 2 million gallons, according to the city website.

Chlorine can be stored as either a liquid or gas and is used to treat drinking water. However, it can be harmful or deadly if inhaled, with symptoms including difficulty breathing, skin irritation and vomiting. Chlorine gas has a bleach-like odor and can appear yellow-green in color when concentrated.

According to the CDC, if you are exposed to chlorine:

  • Leave the area where the chlorine was released and get to fresh air. Quickly moving to an area where fresh air is available is highly effective in reducing exposure to chlorine.
    • If the chlorine release was outdoors, move away from the area where the chlorine was released. Go to the highest ground possible, because chlorine is heavier than air and will sink to low-lying areas.
    • If the chlorine release was indoors, get out of the building.
  • If you think you may have been exposed, remove your clothing, rapidly wash your entire body with soap and water, and get medical care as quickly as possible.

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