Leak that displaced Lubbock neighborhood stopped

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Associated Press

Posted on May 10, 2013 at 6:32 AM

Updated Friday, May 10 at 6:32 AM

LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) — Crews worked all day Thursday to stop a chemical tank leak at an agricultural chemicals vendor in Lubbock that had forced residents of a nearby neighborhood out of their homes.

No injuries were reported, but about 100 families were evacuated Wednesday evening after the leak was detected in a tank of corrosive hydrogen chloride at a Bayer CropScience outlet near Interstate 27. When hydrogen chloride is exposed to moisture in the air it forms hydrochloric acid, which can be corrosive to skin and dangerous to lungs if inhaled.

Residents were allowed to return to their homes Thursday afternoon as crews drained the chemical from the leaking tank into another tank. They completed the task and stopped the leak around 6 p.m., according to a statement from city officials.

The street in front of the Bayer CropScience outlet remained closed for decontamination, but it was expected to reopen by Friday morning, according to the statement.

The Lubbock school district cancelled classes at a nearby elementary school because streets around it were closed, district spokeswoman Nancy Sharp said.

Investigators are trying to determine what caused the leak. Company employees noticed a leak from an apparent faulty valve on one of six tanks on a trailer in a parking area outside of the facility.

Lubbock Fire Marshal Robert Loveless said the vapor formed after hydrogen chloride meets moisture is heavier than air and will sink or be dispersed by winds.

The leaking tank had a 3,000-pound capacity and was under pressure. The gas wasn't explosive, though "it's still a pressurized vessel and deserves respect" as to its potential for danger, Loveless said.

Bayer CropScience spokesman Monty Christian said the chemical is used to remove lint from cotton seed.

Christian said the leaking cylinder was from AirGas and that the company provided the hazmat experts.

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