Bladen County Sheriff’s deputies were called to the plant at 10 a.m. Monday to help evacuate 2,000 workers. The incident caused the plant to stop production. The Tar Heel plant processes about 32,000 hogs per day. More than 4,800 individuals work at the plant.
A spokeswoman for Smithfield said there was no ammonia leak or roof collapse at the plant. “Maintenance crews are currently on site investigating and repairing a separated beam in the roof structure over a section of the plant,” said Kathleen Kirkham, director of corporate communications. “Operations at the facility are expected to partially resume tomorrow, and to fully resume on Thursday. The safety of our employees is our top priority, so employees were sent home yesterday in an abundance of caution. We will mitigate production losses by running additional shifts at nearby plants, and at Tar Heel when it is operational.”
This isn’t the first incident to disrupt production at the Tar Heel plant. As recently as last week, an ammonia leak led to the evacuation of the plant. Operations resumed the same day after the leak was fixed. A previous ammonia leak in June 2014 resulted in a loss of power and water, and workers on the day shift were evacuated. The plant returned to full production on June 20, 2014.