Photo by Emily Fitzgerald
ODOT and the Hood River County Sheriff’s Office directing Hwy 35 southbound traffic onto Paasch Drive on Monday. The road was closed and area evacuated for two hours due to an ammonia leak at a fruit packing house, 2135 Hwy 35.
As of Tuesday, October 9, 2018
Emergency crews closed and evacuated Highway 35 between Paasch Drive and Dethman Ridge Road, as well as all of Van Horn Drive and Mason Road, in the mid valley for approximately two hours yesterday due to an ammonia leak at a fruit packing house.
The Wy’east Fire District and the Hood River County Sheriff’s Office both responded, with assistance from ODOT to detour vehicles off Highway 35. The crews worked with a Gresham Hazmat Team to evaluate the situation and determine the best course of action.
The leak was first reported around 2 p.m. and was coming from a hole in a pipe within the facility, said Wy’east Fire District Captain Tiffany Peterson. It is unknown what caused the hole, she said, but the pipe was actively leaking ammonia until crews were able to locate a shut-off valve around 3:50 p.m.
No injuries were reported and the leak “prompted the precautionary closures,” said a statement by the Hood River County Sheriff’s Office.
The Hood River Valley School District was informed, and three bus routes were rerouted to Wy’east Middle School, where the children were supervised until a family member with photo ID could come pick them up. Parents were alerted of the situation via robocall, said Peterson.
When the leak was still active, Peterson said, “there are no health risks to anyone outside the (evacuation) radius,” and as soon as the leak was contained, the Hood River County Sheriff’s Office reported “no immediate danger to surrounding residencies or businesses.”
Ammonia is frequently used as a refrigerant in industrial facilities and there are approximately 12 facilities between Odell and Parkdale that utilize it.
“Ammonia is considered a high health hazard because it is corrosive to the skin, eyes, and lungs,” states OSHA. The EPA classifies it as an extremely hazardous substance.