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Chemical Leak From Bleach Company Forces Evacuation, 42 Treated

May 18, 1987

PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ Chlorine fumes from leaking chemical tanks spread over southwest Philadelphia Sunday, sending at least 42 people to hospitals and forcing 300 to flee their homes for several hours, authorities said.

Muriatic acid and sodium hypochloride were discovered leaking from separate 500-gallon tanks at Hachik Distribution Co., which makes pool supplies, about 4 p.m., police Capt. Stanley Puchalski said.

Together, the chemicals produced chlorine gas, which can cause irritation to the nose, throat and eyes and, in higher concentrations, breathing difficulties, said Tom Udicious, a poison information specialist at the Poison Information Center.

At least 42 people were taken to three hospitals. One person with breathing problems was admitted in stable condition at Fitzgerald Mercy Hospital, said Dan Hilferty, a hospital spokesman.

Firefighters sprayed the leaking tanks with water, keeping down the fumes and diluting the chemicals, said Ray Germann, a spokesman for the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

Residents were evacuated from an eight-block area to a Red Cross shelter set up at a church but were allowed to return by 7 p.m., when firefighters had brought the leaks under control, Germann said.

Cause of the leak was not immediately known, he said.

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