Firefighters from Middletown and other departments worked more than two hours Thursday afternoon to shut down a valve leaking powdered lime at the Middletown Water Treatment Plant that sent two employees to the hospital.
The chemical leak was reported about 12:45 p.m. at the plant, 805 Columbia Ave. Firefighters had the situation under control before 3:30 p.m., according to Shelby Quinlivan, city communications coordinator. Police blocked off the road to keep people away from the plant as a precaution.
About 4 tons of dry lime powder escaped from the storage bin, said Fire Chief Paul Lolli. He said a crew was called to the scene because of the “tremendous amount” of cleanup to do.
While the incident happened at the city’s water treatment plant, at no time was the city’s drinking water supply in any danger, Lolli said. Quinlivan said the plant was treating water at the time of the incident and there werre no disruptions to the water treatment process.
Officials from the city and Butler County Emergency Management Agency notified the Ohio EPA about the leak. Lolli said the incident was part of the water softening process and had nothing to do with the distribution lines to city water customers.
Lolli praised several Butler County agencies that responded, including Hamilton and Monroe and the Butler County EMA.
Quinlivan said both city employees were taken to Atrium Medical Center. She said they were treated and their identities were not released by press time.
Lolli said when water and lime combine it will cause “significant burns” to the body. He said one employee suffered moderate burns; the other suffered minor burns to their back of neck and arms and legs. Quinlivan said the employees were reported in fair condition as of late Thursday afternoon.
No firefighters or rescue personnel were injured. Lolli said there were 15 people in the building at the time of the incident and 13 got out safely. Fire and hazmat crews donned special protective suits to prevent inhaling the lime powder.
Lolli said firefighters made multiple entries into the facility to assess the situation and to shut the valve down. Hazmat crews entered the building and shut the water off and closed values that stopped the lime from leaking.
Quinlivan said failure of a rotary valve is suspected of causing the leak of lime powder that is used for water softening purposes. The water softening material is stored in a bulk storage tank and the leak was contained to a maintenance area. She said the valves are inspected annually but she did not know the last inspection date.
There was no structural damage to the plant as a result of the lime leak and a more thorough assessment of the valve and equipment will be made after the cleanup is completed, Quinlivan said. She said the plant “has two of everything” and the lime feeder in question was not in service of the time of the incident and there will be no disruptions in treating water for customers.