Wayne Farms in Laurel had to evacuate its plant and a portion of Interstate 59 had to be shut down for less than an hour because of “equipment failure” led to an ammonia leak in the chicken-processing plant late Sunday night.
Medical teams were called in to check out workers who may have been exposed to the hazardous gas, Executive Director Paul Sheffield of the Jones County Emergency Management Agency reported. A few homes around the facility were evacuated.
Faye Jackson went to her parents’ house on Mississippi Avenue to help them evacuate, and EMTs and firefighters were in “haz-mat suits, masks, gloves and air tanks,” when she arrived, she posted on Facebook. She later wrote that her nose, eyes and throat were “burning like fire.”
Wayne Farms officials followed the proper procedures, Sheffield said. Officials went through the plant around midnight to make sure it was safe for workers to return.
A portion of the interstate was closed and traffic diverted “for 30 to 40 minutes” while emergency officials were assessing the situation.
Exposure to high concentrations of ammonia can cause burning in the nose, throat and respiratory tract, and in severe cases, can lead to respiratory failure, according to the Department of Health website.