Ammonia plume clears, residents who were evacuated return home

Dozens of people had to leave their homes and businesses in Fort Pierce Wednesday due to an ammonia leak.

Trouble began around 11 a.m. when a one-ton refrigerated trailer was getting picked up from Atlantic Coast Recycling Inc., at 3301 Avenue D.

It appears during the transfer, a tank on that trailer was punctured and a plume of ammonia escaped.

Three people were taken to the hospital for treatment. One employee had to be decontaminated after being exposed.  They were treated with an agent that neutralizes the ammonia and their injuries were not life threatening.

Ammonia is a colorless gas with a powerful odor. 

Site of ammonia leak (Photo: Jon Shainman/WPTV)

Hazmat crews from the St. Lucie County Fire District put on protective gear to try and seal the leak, but later determined the best course of action was to allow the tank to empty itself.

“Ammonia will eventually evaporate into the air.  The longer we give it, the better of we are.  Eventually it will dissipate to where it is not a concern, a health concern,” said Fort Pierce Police Deputy Chief Frank Amandro.

On its website, Atlantic Coast Recycling says it was founded in 1977 and collects and processes scrap metal.

The evacuation lasted about four hours.

During the evacuation police say approximately 250 people were told to leave their homes and businesses.

That included students at the Indian River State College branch near 29th Street and Avenue D.

Officers went door to door this morning to let residents and workers know they needed to leave. No evacuation site was set up, they were just told to leave quickly.

"I’m not upset with them about that. They were doing their job and I’m glad they were here to do the job because I don't want nothing to happen to me or my wife or other people, friends, neighbors, stuff  like that," said resident Arthur Dallas.

Police say Avenue D from North 29th Street to Angle will remain closed to the public until the cleanup stage is complete.

NewsChannel 5's Meghan McRoberts contributed to this report.

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