No one was injured or exposed to sulfur dioxide in a leak at the Oliver Springs wastewater treatment plant on Wednesday, but a small group of nearby residents were asked to stay in their homes as a precaution, City Manager Tina Treece said.
The small leak from a system connected to a 150-pound cylinder of sulfur dioxide was discovered by workers who heard an alarm when they arrived at the plant on Joel Road at about 8 a.m. Wednesday.
Treece said there was no odor in the air and it turned out that the leak posed no danger, but officials wanted to make sure conditions were safe for residents and workers.
“As soon as we knew it happened, we called dispatch and had (a hazardous materials team) come out,” she said.
About 16 emergency workers responded, including volunteer firefighters from Oliver Springs, the Roane County Office of Emergency Services, Oak Ridge Fire Department, and an Anderson County hazardous materials team.
A dozen or so nearby residents were asked to stay indoors.
“It was just for safety,” Treece said.
Howie Rose, director of the Roane County Office of Emergency Services, said air tests around the building found no sulfur dioxide outside, and very little inside.
“It was well below the threshold,” he said.
Two firefighters went inside the building and shut off the cylinder. Treece said they had to be sprayed down and decontaminated afterward as a precaution.
Officials were at the site for about three hours.
Treece said sulfur dioxide is used at the plant for dechlorination, and it is a corrosive inhalant. City officials have agreed to install a new safe bleach system that can eliminate a lot of potential emergencies and possible risk to workers and nearby residents, she said. Workers were finishing installation on that new system, which had already been under consideration, on Thursday afternoon.
Though a hazardous materials team said the Wednesday leak was a “non-issue event,” officials wanted to take proper precautions, Treece said.
“I’m not willing to take a chance on safety and protocol,” she said. “We have to take care of our citizens, and we’ve got to take care of our employees.”
Rose said “it was very fortunate” that there were no exposures.