Thursday 5 October 2017

Employees evacuated after ammonia leak at cold storage facility in Queensland, Australia.

Employees and contractors working at a cold storage facility in South Townsville, Queensland, have been evacuated from the premises after an ammonia leak was detected. The leak was detected at about 5.30 am local time on Thursday 5 October 2017, and resulted in the evacuation of the premises, but not, despite initial concerns, neighbouring properties. An investigation by Queensland Fire and Emergency Services discovered the source of the leak, and were attempting to close off the affected section of the refrigeration system. 

Employees evacuated from a refrigeration facility in South Townsville, Queensland, following an ammonia leak on 5 October 2017. Townsville Bulletin.

Ammonia is used in a wide variety of industries, but usually in a diluted form. Anhydrous ammonia (ammonia without any water) is both toxic and corrosive, though injuries from ammonia are rare even in incidents such as this where large volumes are spilled, as ammonia has a strong and extremely unpleasant smell that people tend to retreat from rapidly (to the extent that people are more often injured trying to escape the smell than directly by the ammonia. Ammonia is commonly used as a refrigerant gas in industrial cooling systems, as while it is more toxic than some alternatives, its strong smell ensures that any leaks tend found - and investigated -very quickly.

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