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Free Lance-Star reporter Robyn Sidersky covers Caroline County government and schools. You can reach her at 540/374-5413 or rsidersky@freelancestar.com. You can follow coverage on Facebook or Twitter as well.

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Leaking valve caused hazmat event in Caroline

A leaking valve on an anhydrous ammonia tank caused a hazmat event in Caroline County Wednesday.

Caroline Fire & Rescue units arrived at the Russell Stover Candy Distribution Center in Carmel Church early Wednesday afternoon and found that the alarm detection system was activated for the room where the ammonia is stored, fire officials said.

The first monitoring indicated levels in that space were “well above dangerous amounts,” said Mike Jones, deputy fire chief of the Fredericksburg Fire Department, whose Regional Hazardous Materials Response Team was called to assist at the scene around 1 p.m.

The 115,000-square-foot building that houses a retail store and a distribution center was evacuated.

Anhydrous ammonia is a chemical compund made up of nitrogen and hydrogen atoms, Jones said. It is a colorless gas with a pungent odor.

“While often used in agriculture as a fertilizer, in industrial applications, it is often used as a refrigerant due to its economical cost and physical properties,” Jones said. “This is how the material was being used at the Caroline County plant.”

After consulting with Caroline and the Virginia Department of Emergency management officials, the Hazardous Materials Team made two entries into the room containing the leaking vapor, Jones said.

The first was to determine exactly what and where the product was escaping, he said, so that the ventilation process could begin.

A second entry was made with a repair technician, who was able to isolate the leaking valve and place the system back in operation, Jones said.

The team was on the site for about three hours to complete the assisgnment, Jones said.

No injuries or property loss to thebuilding were reported.

Permalink: http://news.fredericksburg.com/carolinecrossroads/2012/08/09/leaking-valve-caused-hazmat-event-in-caroline/