Four treated after chlorine spill
Four Shepherdstown Public Works Department employees were treated for exposure to chlorine Monday afternoon following a reported chemical spill at the town’s wastewater treatment plant off East High Street.
According to an official at Town Hall, the spill occurred about 1 p.m. Traffic was routed away from a several-block residential area for at least two hours.
Several emergency response teams from Berkeley and Jefferson counties and Washington County, Md., responded along with a West Virginia Regional Response Team from the Department of Military Affairs & Public Safety.
Water and wastewater treatment plants use chlorine to reduce water levels of microorganisms that can spread disease to humans, according to the EPA.
An EPA Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics Fact Sheet reports that chlorine is a “highly reactive gas” and a naturally occurring element.
Breathing small amounts of chlorine for short periods of time adversely affects the human respiratory system, the EPA reports. Effects range from coughing and chest pain to water retention in the lungs. Chlorine irritates the skin, the eyes and the respiratory system.
The EPA reports that people who use laundry bleach and swimming pool chemicals containing chlorine products are usually not exposed to chlorine itself. Chlorine is generally found only in industrial settings.
A makeshift decontamination station was set up on High Street near the railroad crossing where one of the Public Works employees and a town pickup truck were sprayed to wash away the chemical.