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Chlorine gas leak closes part of Nappanee Street in Elkhart

The leak closed down Nappanee Street between Franklin Street and Lexington Avenue.

Posted on March 8, 2014 at 8:03 p.m.

ELKHART — A chlorine gas leak at the Elkhart Wastewater Treatment Plant that closed down a portion of Nappanee Street was contained around 8:40 p.m. Saturday, March 8.

The Elkhart Fire Department responded to the leak at 1201 S. Nappanee St., around 7:40 p.m. Shortly afterward, Nappanee Street was closed between Franklin Street and Lexington Avenue.

The three employees at the plant at the time evacuated to a safe section of the building as a precaution when it became clear there was a leak, according to Laura Kolo, utility services manager for the Elkhart Public Works and Utilities Department. They returned to their posts after the situation was sorted out.

Arvis Dawson, executive assistant to Mayor Dick Moore, said the leak was minor, and no one was injured. Kolo attributed the escape to a crimped washer on a full chlorine gas cylinder that was being installed to replace an empty tank.

"All proper procedures were taken," said Kolo. Workers shut a valve to stop the leak soon after it was discovered and only a minor amount of gas actually escaped, which subsequently dissipated.

Dawson said the fire department's Hazmat team was called in to investigate the incident, but the closure of the valve had already stopped the leak. No businesses in the area were evacuated, Dawson said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, chlorine is a toxic gas with corrosive properties and is a lung damaging agent. "It'll take your breath away and burn your lungs if you stand there and breath it in," Kolo said.

The Nappanee Street facility uses chlorine gas in treating and cleaning wastewater from city water and sewer customers.

Reporter Tim Vandenack contributed to this report.

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