CHARLOTTE, NC – A Pilgrim’s Pride Corp. spokesman confirmed reports of an Aug. 16 ammonia leak and explosion that closed a Pilgrim’s Pride chicken processing plant in Marshville, which resulted in the evacuation of more than 500 employees and nearby residents. No injuries were reported initially and property damage has been limited to the plant.

“An ammonia leak was discovered at the plant just before 5 am ET,” Gary Rhodes, Pilgrim’s Pride vice president of corporate communications and investor relations, confirmed to “The plant was evacuated and local Hazmat and fire crews were summoned. Approximately 550 employees work there.”

“As a precaution, authorities evacuated homes [25 families] near the plant,” he added. “Ammonia has been shut off inside the plant. At this point, the plant remains closed under the direction of the fire dept. We do not yet know when it will re-open. We are waiting for clearance from fire dept. before we can go in to assess the structure and any damage.”

Fire fighters and Haz-Mat crews completed a survey of the damage at about 10:15 am, according to a media statement issued by the Union County Sheriff’s office. Crews reported structural damage inside the plant in the area affected by what was reported to be an early morning explosion.

“Emergency workers have confirmed that there is no active/ongoing release of ammonia in the plant, and have confirmed that plant workers successfully shut off the main ammonia supply this morning,” the statement said.

Meanwhile, firefighters and plant officials will continue to work to isolate and shut down the ammonia distribution system within the plant, which will entail closing off various valves and control points within the system,” the statement added.