Chlorine leak prompts Sheffield officials to get equipment to improve response

The leak was caused by a regulator malfunction, according to officials.

Posted: Sep 9, 2019 5:35 PM
Updated: Sep 9, 2019 5:48 PM

A chlorine leak at a waste water plant caused some Sheffield residents to be evacuated early Sunday morning.

Colbert County Emergency Management officials told WAAY 31 a regulator malfunctioned at Sheffield Utilities waste water plant and caused a small chlorine tank to start leaking. That sparked some evacuations within a one mile radius of the Furnace Road facility.

"I woke up from a dead sleep at 2:30 a.m.," said a Sheffield village resident, Michelle Woods.

Woods said she was alerted by a friend about the evacuations.

"She called me and said she could hear the sirens and evacuation orders, so we tried to get dressed real fast and get the three dogs," said Woods.

Colbert County Emergency Management told WAAY 31 a HAZMAT team stopped the leak from getting worse by closing off a valve to a larger tank. They said chlorine can be deadly if inhaled and they wanted to be on the safe side with the evacuations, but they were not mandatory.

"I've lived here since 1974 and I don't remember anything like that, so it was a little scary," said Woods.

Woods said some of her neighbors slept through the whole thing. It was Sheffield police and firemen's responsibility to knock on residents doors and let them know they should possibly evacuate. The Sheffield police chief said they realized quickly there were too many doors to knock on, so they put the evacuation notice out over their radios and PA systems in the neighborhoods to wake everyone up.

"They need to have more door to door. Some residents didn't hear it at all and slept through it, so if something had really happened, it could have been bad," said Woods.

Colbert Emergency Management, Sheffield leaders and other county leaders will have a round table this week to discuss things they did right and how to improve. EMA also got approved funds to order a portable chlorine reader. They did not have one at the time of the leak and said it could have helped.

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