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Four Injured in Chemical Leak

September 16, 1986

BELLE, W.Va. (AP) _ A faulty valve released a small chemical cloud at Occidental Chemical Corp.’s plant here, sending four people to a hospital for treatment, authorities say.

The leak Monday involved a mixture of chloromethane gases, including chloroform and methylene chloride, said plant spokesman Larry Hurn. A pressure valve in a distillation column opened prematurely and remained open about 50 seconds before workers could close it, he said.

″It was just real, real small,″ said police Lt. Bevil Holstine.

All four, who had been working at a historical site, complained of eye irritation and dizziness when taken to Charleston Area Medical Center Memorial Division, said spokesman Gary Chernenko. One was admitted, for observation.

The plant’s computerized safety system indicated that the leak would not travel outside the plant, even though the workers were outside plant property when they came in contact with the substance, said Fire Chief Jack Figman.

Chloromethanes are used in the manufacture of paint strippers and aerosol propellants. Although one of the substances that leaked, methylene chloride, is a known cancer-causing agent, Hurn said the total amount that escaped was not large enough to be reported under federal government standards.

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