Chlorine leak at well house leads to evacuation

A small chlorine leak at a Carson City well Thursday morning led to the evacuation of Winans Furniture and three businesses in the Home Center shopping center at North Carson Street and College Parkway.

Winans, Dal-Tile, Sherman-Williams and Roger's Carpet reopened about an hour and a half later. The Carson City Hazardous Material Response Unit shut off the chlorine tank and disconnected the regulator inside the pump house, said Battalion Chief Stacey Giomi of the Carson City Fire Department.

There were no injuries, Giomi said.

Carson City Well No. 7 sits just outside the Winans warehouse at the southeast corner of the furniture store.

Winans janitor Don Presley first smelled the chlorine just before 8 a.m. A call was put in to the city water department's emergency number and the fire department's hazardous materials team arrived within 15 minutes.

"Don has worked there for over 30 years," Winans co-owner Scott Winans said. "He has never smelled the chlorine like he smelled it today."

Chlorine is considered a dangerous gas because it forms hydrochloric acid when it comes in contact with human liquids such as mucus.

Firefighters Tim De Haven and Dan Albee, sealed in blue Level A entry suits resistant to chemicals and vapors, entered the well house and determined a leaking valve caused the chlorine smell.

The city water utility uses a 150-pound chlorine tank to disinfect well water and protect water against contamination. The tank had only 8 pounds left, but little chlorine likely leaked since the tank was scheduled to be replaced today or Saturday, said Curtis Horton, the city's water operations chief.

"We feel this is probably a minor leak," Horton said while the entry team was in the well house. "The chlorine vented as it should. This is playing it by the rules. It is important we treat it as something serious."

When De Haven and Albee emerged from the well house, their first stop was with the decontamination team at a pair of plastic wading pools. Firefighter Matt Merritt and Engineer Perry Carlson scrubbed and hosed off De Haven and Albee before they could take off the suits.

The evacuation was called off after 9:30 a.m. Winans could open to customers at its normal 10 a.m. opening time but deliveries were backlogged because the warehouse opens at 7 a.m., Winans said.

The chlorine leak was the first outing for the fire department's Hazardous Material Response Unit this year. The unit responded to about four calls in the city last year.


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