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Chemical Leak Causes Evacuation at Paper Plant

About 400 employees had to leave the premises.

Lewis Clark Valley,‏ @BananaBeltNW, Twitter

LEWISTON, Idaho (AP) — No one was injured after a chemical leak forced evacuations at a paper manufacturing complex in Idaho.

An alarm prompted about 400 employees and contractors to evacuate from Clearwater Paper in Lewiston Wednesday morning, but operations returned to normal later that day, the Lewiston Tribune reported.

An undetermined volume of chemicals leaked for about a half-hour inside the 180,000-square-foot (16,700-square-meter) building, company spokesman Matt Van Vleet said. Machinery inside the building was idle at the time due to annual maintenance. The chemicals involved were two antibacterial agents, sodium hypochlorite and a proprietary solution of ammonia, used to keep the manufacturing equipment clean.

"We were doing maintenance on the digital control system and other parts of the equipment that house and transport the two chemicals," Van Vleet said. "A valve opened and we mixed the two together, too much and in the wrong process. That's what we believed happened."

The facilities were cleaned and aired out so shifts could resume later that day.

The leak was reported to local, state and federal agencies including the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality and the state's Department of Health and Welfare.

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