A malfunctioning scrubbing system at a South Baltimore chemical plant yesterday released a cloud of hydrochloric acid that was sucked into an office ventilation system, sending seven company employees who inhaled the fumes to area hospitals.
No evacuations were ordered outside of the plant, according to city Fire Department officials.
The fumes, which are irritating to the lungs, escaped about 1 p.m. from the top vent of the 20-foot-tall scrubber inside a smoke stack at the FMC Corp. in the 1700 block of Patapsco Ave.
The scrubbing system is designed to neutralize the acid by circulating it through a tube 36 inches in diameter with a solution that turns it into harmless salt, explained Eugene O. Reynolds, a senior processing engineer at the chemical company. If it works properly, nothing harmful is released into the atmosphere.
But yesterday, the machine did not completely neutralize the acid. "Anything that doesn't get scrubbed goes out of the vent at the top, and that's what happened," Mr. Reynolds said.
The cause of the malfunction had not been determined.