Ammonia leak forces Smithfield plant evacuation
TAR HEEL, NC – A Smithfield Foods pork processing plant in Bladen County, NC, remained closed June 18 after an ammonia leak forced the evacuation of more than 2,000 workers.
The incident occurred at 11 a.m. Local hazmat teams responded to the leak, and law enforcement officers closed a highway 5 miles in both directions, according to news reports. Eight people were treated at Cape Fear Valley Medical Center, according to local news reports. Seven individuals were treated and released while one patient was kept overnight. Workers were sent home after the incident.
Dennis Pittman, a Smithfield spokesman, said no production was scheduled for June 18 as maintenance crews continued to clean up the plant. A severed ammonia line was the source of the leak, but the company and federal officials are investigating the incident. Pittman said the company hopes to re-open the plant by June 19.
The Tar Heel plant is the largest pork-processing facility in the United States with an estimated slaughtering capacity of up to 34,000 hogs per day.