Workers again are overcome

April 08, 1994|By Bill Talbott | Bill Talbott,Sun Staff Writer

Nine plant workers at Lehigh Portland Cement Co. in Union Bridge were taken to Carroll County General Hospital yesterday after they complained of a noxious odor of gas, throat irritations and tightness in their chests about 10:30 a.m.

None of the workers was seriously injured. They all were released after examinations and treatment for inhalation of toxic fumes, a spokeswoman said.

The incident was the second involving noxious fumes at the plant this week. On Tuesday, seven plant employees were taken to the hospital after they complained of nausea while they were working in the area of the No. 4 kiln and smokestack. All of them, too, were released after examinations and treatment.

Plant Manager David Roush said the No. 4 kiln was shut down after yesterday's incident and would be thoroughly checked before it is restarted.

Mr. Roush said all of the employees who were working downwind from the No. 4 smokestack suffered illnesses, apparently from the inhalation of sulfur dioxide gases -- a natural product resulting from the combustion of coal -- that were blown back down the smokestack by high winds.

Under normal operating conditions, the gases go up the smokestack and are dissipated in the air, he said.

Carroll County's Emergency Operations Center dispatched 10 medic units from Carroll and Frederick counties to the plant, which is Union Bridge's largest employer. The units came from the Union Bridge, New Windsor, Taneytown, Winfield, Westminster, Pleasant Valley, Mount Airy and Libertytown firehouses.

The EOC also dispatched a rescue squad and fire engine from Union Bridge, a hazardous materials unit from Fort Detrick and two units from the Maryland Department of the Environment's Spill Response Team.

Jim Harris, a Union Bridge assistant fire chief who also works at Lehigh, said the combination of sulfur dioxide and carbon monoxide, the results of a small amount of unburned coal, probably caused yesterday's problems.

Lehigh uses coal as the fuel to fire the kilns that produce its cement. The coal is ground to a fine powder before it is propelled into the kiln's furnace, an official said.

The large number of medic units sent to the Lehigh incident left much of western and central Carroll without ambulance coverage until units from surrounding fire stations, including one from Adams County, Pa., could be transferred to the empty firehouses.

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