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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, August 23, 2001

Ammonia leak shuts down fish plant

By Johnny Brannon
Advertiser Staff Writer

An ammonia leak forced dozens of workers to evacuate a fish processing plant near the Honolulu airport shortly after 11 a.m. yesterday.

Firefighters with the Honolulu Fire Department Hazmat 1 Unit clear the site of an ammonia leak at the Fresh Island Fish Co. on Ualena Street. Police closed the street after the 11:12 a.m. alarm.

Bruce Asato • The Honolulu Advertiser

A 49-year-old man became ill after he inhaled ammonia fumes. He was treated at Kapiolani Medical Center at Pali Momi and released.

The leak occurred after workers at the Fresh Island Fish Co., 3100 Ualena St., shut down a refrigeration unit for maintenance work and then started it back up, Honolulu Fire Department Capt. Ken Tejada said.

A powerful surge of ammonia burst through a valve about 20 feet from the ground, and company officials evacuated workers from the immediate area, he said. After firefighters arrived, the second floor also was evacuated.

One fire engine, two hazardous materials units and a battalion chief responded to the scene, Tejada said.

Company officials initially declined to allow firefighters on the property, telling them the situation was under control, Tejada said.

"It's always best to let the fire department and people who have expertise to come in," he said. "Better safe than sorry."

A company employee was able to repair the valve with fire department assistance, and the refrigeration unit was restarted at about 12:30 p.m.