Updated 08/31/2012 04:22 PM
Officials investigate Fulton ammonia leak
State and federal officials begin the investigation into an ammonia leak that forced residents to evacuate their homes. YNN's Tamara Lindstrom sat down with the Mayor of Fulton to find out how the leak happened and whether neighbors should be concerned.
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FULTON, N.Y. -- Neighbors near the former Birds Eye plant in Fulton were alarmed by an overwhelming smell of ammonia in the air Thursday night.
"It frightens people and it should," said Fulton mayor Ronald Woodward. "But I think everybody cooperated well and it turned out good and we got it shut off."
Residents in the area were evacuated while the leak was contained. The source, a break in the refrigeration system on the now vacant Pinnacle Foods property.
"They have a condenser unit on the roof and one of the tubings that runs through the condenser failed and released the vapor into the air," Woodward said.
The mayor said the cooling unit has run continuously since the plant closed and there is someone on the property 24 hours a day monitoring the system.
"These people were on site to keep the refrigeration plant running because there's a prospective buyer. So Pinnacle Foods agreed that they would keep operating it until they closed on it, which would have been right at the end of September."
The person working at the time wasn't aware of the leak until firefighters arrived.
"Not until our fireman got a hold of him. We actually sent our firemen in there with an air pack to find him," Woodward said.
On Friday, EPA and Department of Labor officials visited the site to look into the incident. No injuries were reported from the leak, but the mayor says the monitoring will continue.
"Well, they're going to have someone on site 24 hours as long as they have ammonia stored in there. Yes, they will," Woodward said.
Whether the company will repair the system and keep it running through September as planned, the mayor says it's too soon to know.
A representative from Pinnacle Foods could not be reached for comment.