Chlorine leak sends two county workers to emergency room

A chlorine tank leak in Wailua Houselots Thursday initiated a four-hour multi-agency effort in containing and decontaminating the site where the chemical gas was released.

Two county Department of Water employees were completing a routine monthly replacement of a 150-pound capacity chlorine cylinder in the pump shed located in the valley at the end of Nonou Road, when the valve started leaking and they couldn’t shut it off.

The men’s clothing was saturated with the gas, according to a county spokeswoman.

The two called for emergency assistance, and American Medical Response Medic 23 transported them to the Wilcox Health emergency room as a precaution.

Kapa’a Fire Station personnel led by Capt. Ron Antonio responded. Nearby resident Bull Kusaka said he talked to the two men while waiting for the ambulance. The workers were uninjured and released to work later that afternoon.

The chlorine cylinder was nearly empty, with about six pounds remaining, according to Kaua’i Fire Department Battalion Chief Shawn Hosaka, who controlled communications and watched access to the site. Nonou Road was blocked from Lulo and Kamokila Roads from about noon to 4 p.m. Water service was not interrupted.

“When we have this kind of incident we have a unified command to decide the best course of action,” Hosaka said.

Rod Yama, Department of Health, Environmental Management Division, determined that evacuation wasn’t necessary based upon the amount of gas and the remote location of the leak.

The American Medical Response Medic 21 team stayed on site to evaluate HazMat personnel as they made entry and during decontamination.

Wearing neon green Class B protective suits, gloves and boots to enter the shed, the HazMat team used the DOW’s chlorine gas detector the size of a cell phone to determine whether the tank was still leaking, then shut the valve and placed a cap over the valve to stop the leak even further.

Though this type of cap can be used on any chlorine cylinder, Tshupp said to his recollection the DOW hasn’t experienced any similar incidents.

The DOW uses chlorine gas at most well sites for disinfection purposes. If more gas had leaked, evacuation may have been needed, Tshupp said. Chlorine is a hazard to the respiratory system.

Teams finished containment and decontamination around 4 p.m. and the site was turned over to the Department of Water, who will be billed for the fire department’s efforts.

The Department of Water, Fire Department and Department of Health will evaluate the response and the DOW will investigate what caused the valve to leak.

Staff Writer Kendyce Manguchei can be reached at or 245-3681 (ext. 252).


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