COVINGTON, Ky. - An ammonia leak at the White Castle meat processing facility Saturday evening shut down Ky. 17 and forced residents of the Tuscany subdivision to shelter in place for 5½ hours.
No one was injured during the incident, said Covington Fire Chief Mark Pierce, which ended about 10 p.m., when emergency officials cleared the scene. The road was reopened and the residents were “released” about 9:30 p.m., he said.
The Fire Department was first called to the scene about 4:35 p.m. by White Castle officials, who had been alerted by an alarm company whose sensors in a mechanical room were reporting unusually high levels of ammonia, which is used to flash-freeze meat, Pierce said. The facility was empty at the time.
When White Castle officials checked out the report, they saw an ammonia cloud emanating from the mechanical room and called Kenton County Emergency Dispatch, which called the Covington Fire Department, Kenton County Emergency Management, and the Northern Kentucky Hazardous Materials team.
As a precaution, a Code Red phone alert was sent to residents of the subdivision, telling them to go in their homes, close doors and windows and turn off their furnaces. Ky. 17 was also closed at points north and south of Pioneer Park, with motorists routed onto Old Ky. 17.
Covington firefighters set up a water curtain to capture the fumes and drag them to the ground, where they liquefied and were diluted, Pierce said. The HazMat team then entered the building and shut off the leak, which occurred when a solenoid valve failed on a compressed tank, he said. When that was done, they began ventilating the building.
# # #