7 taken to hospital from Lebanon County ammonia incident

Written by Daniel Walmer and Erin Collins/Lebanon Daily News | May 2, 2017 7:24 AM

The Lebanon County Hazardous Materials Team responded Monday morning to FreeBird, a poultry processing plant near Fredericksburg, after several employees reported feeling ill. Officials said the concerns were related to an early morning ammonia spill. (Photo: Michael K. Dakota, Lebanon Daily)

(Fredericksburg) -- Seven people were transported to local hospitals Monday morning for illness after an ammonia incident at the FreeBird poultry processing plant near Fredericksburg.

Gary Verna, chief of the Lebanon County Hazardous Material Response Team, confirmed that there had been a previous ammonia leak at the plant around 2 a.m. Monday morning. The situation, which had an unknown cause, was reported to state officials and the owners "quickly rectified the situation" with help from a refrigerant company, Verna said. However, employees began to report feeling sick around 10 a.m.

Crews were seen outside of FreeBird Chicken as the building was fully evacuated, but a second leak could not be found and employees were allowed to return to the building. Verna said that the employees that had been transported were likely feeling the leftover effects from the leak earlier in the morning.

The injured employees were transported via First Aid and Safety Patrol ambulances to WellSpan Good Samaritan Hospital and Penn State Hershey Medical Center, Verna said. The severity of their injuries was not immediately available.

The ammonia did not leave the facility and there is no danger to the public, Verna said.

The plant, located off Route 22 near its intersection with Route 343, is operated by FreeBird, a chicken producer that advertises itself as antibiotic free and "humanely raised." It is a brand of Lake Success, New York-based Hain Celestial Group.

Hain purchased the plant in 2015 from BC Natural Chicken, which previously operated it for Perdue Foods.

Lebanon County Hazmat chief Gary Verna speaks to the press about an ammonia leak near Fredericksburg on Monday morning.

Verna said he was not aware of any similar incidents having previously occurred at the facility. In May 2016, a chicken plant owned by Tyson Foods in Lancaster County also had an ammonia leak related to refrigeration, leading to a Lebanon County Hazardous Materials Team response.

Published in Lebanon

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