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Chemical spill at chilled food firm

By Cornish Guardian  |  Posted: September 04, 2013

ROAD CLOSED: The closed entrance to Pennygillam industrial estate after a chemical spillage at Kensey Foods.

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THE OWNERS of a chilled food manufacturing company in North Cornwall have said it is "business as usual" after a chemical spill at their Launceston factory on Wednesday.

Samworth Brothers said that by the evening of the spillage, their Kensey Foods factory at Pennygillam industrial estate was back running as normal, with a full complement of staff.

"The problem has been rectified and our total focus now is on the investigation as to what happened," the company said in a statement.

Three people had to be decontaminated after a 500-litre chemical acid spill at the factory at about 6am.

Around 40 firefighters from five fire stations, and a decontamination unit with specialist officers, some wearing gas-tight suits, spent much of the morning tackling the incident.

Initially 12 casualties were reported following the spillage of paraesthetic vinegar-based organic acid, with four people decontaminated and then treated by paramedics. One was taken to hospital for further treatment.

According to reports, injuries ranged from breathing difficulties to minor chemical burns. It is believed that the clear solution was being stored near a waste processing area when another chemical spilled into it, producing enough of a reaction for it to boil over, causing a spillage around the unit.

The nearby B3254 at Western Road and the link road junction were closed in both directions while a clean-up took place involving fire crews and a waste disposal firm and the site did not reopen until the afternoon.

Speaking at the scene, incident commander Richard Gibbons, said the fire service had responded to the spillage with its hazardous materials response.

He said: "Four employees have been affected by this incident.

"The crews went about decontaminating them before they received medical attention. They have been discharged. They were all walking wounded.

"We then entered the clear-up phase of the operation. In order to do that we received advice from the chemical manufacturer, who told us to wash it down and stop the run-off."

A 50-metre cordon was set up around the area and all roads to the industrial estate were closed, with Devon and Cornwall Police and the Environment Agency also at the scene.

After initial fears, it was confirmed that waste and recycling collections could still take place in Launceston later in the day, but the postal service in the town was affected.

A spokesman for Kensey Foods, said: "Just before 6am this morning staff became aware of a suspected chemical spill in a small section close to our waste processing area. The fire brigade were called."

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