A massive nitrogen leak at an Arizona Intel plant caused the hospitalization of at least 11 people, with a further 46 needing medical treatment on Saturday morning. The severity of the injuries of those hospitalized is yet to be confirmed.
“This is not over,” Tom Dwiggins, spokesman for the Chandler Fire Department, told local news teams standing outside the facility where the leak began.
Those who were taken for treatment reported breathing problems
and skin and eye irritation. Fire authorities from Chandler, Sun
Lakes and Phoenix who arrived at the scene stopped short of
evacuating neighborhoods in the area.
Fire crews managed to find the source of the leak, which has now been secured, according to Dwiggins.
“After meeting with the command staff, we've stopped the leak and there's no concern for [residents in surrounding] neighborhoods,” Dwiggins said.
Nitrogen is a colorless and odorless gas. While it is non-flammable and not reactive, rapid release of the gas can be an asphyxiation hazard in the absence of oxygen rather than atmospheric air (a mixture of oxygen and the inert nitrogen).
The incident is still being investigated as it remains unclear
what caused the problems.
The Intel plant in Chandler was only built last year, when it was decided that the facility would span 285,000 square feet. Intel announced at the time that it was specifically looking for military veterans with relevant training to fill new jobs at the semiconductor manufacturing plant. It claims to be the largest employer in Chandler.
US chemical plants in America have fallen victim to a number of unfortunate accidents this year, the most serious being April’s Texas fertilizer plant explosion in which 15 people died, and over a hundred were hospitalized.
More recently, two chemical plant explosions in Louisiana were rocked by massive blasts, with 77 injured and one killed in the first, and at least one dead and some seven injured in an accident in the same state only two days later.