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Chemical leak at west Louisville wastewater treatment plant; Here's what we know

The chemical that leaked is used as a disinfectant to treat wastewater that comes through the facility.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Crews continue to monitor the aftermath of a chemical spill at a wastewater treatment facility in west Louisville.

Pleasure Ridge Park Fire Department Chief Jason Meiman said crews received a call about a leak on the rear exterior of the Louisville Metro Sewer District's Pumping Station off Bells Lane around 10:20 a.m.

Crews noticed the leak was coming from a relief valve at the top of a vessel containing the chemical, which is used as a disinfectant to treat wastewater. There was also a vapor cloud coming from the leak. 

Although the leak itself has been contained, Meiman said, the reaction inside producing the vapor remains ongoing. 

Fire crews have been dumping water over the vessel to minimize the reaction in hopes of ultimately stopping it.

Both sides of the Watterson Expressway between Dumesnil Street and Cane Run Road were blocked off for several hours due to the expressway's proximity to the site.

What chemical leaked?

The chemical that leaked is used as a disinfectant to treat wastewater that comes through the facility before being returned to the Ohio River or sent to another treatment facility, MSD spokesperson Harold Adams said. 

It's comprised of several other chemicals including hydrogen peroxide, acidic acid, peracetic acid, and sulfuric acid. Officials said the chemical's vapors are an inhalation hazard.

Officials said the chemical puts off an odor that smells like vinegar, which has not been detected in the community.

Full press conference:

It’s unknown how much of the chemical leaked from the facility and how much was released into the air.

“That is a determination that’s going to have to be made after calculations are done as the majority of the product that was released is into the air,” Meiman said. “That’s going to have to be a calculation that MSD officials will have to do at a later date.”

The cause of the leak remains under investigation at this time.

Are there any health concerns?

Louisville Water told WHAS11 it has "no concerns" about any possible water contamination due to the spill.

PRP Fire Chief Jason Meiman said after crews noticed the vapor cloud coming from the leak, air monitoring was quickly set up throughout the community. A shelter-in-place order was also issued for nearby facilities and residences.

“Our instruments have determined that there has not been anything that has left the site,” he said.

Meiman said even if someone detects the vinegar-like odor, it doesn't mean they've come in contact with the chemical.

Jodie Meiman, executive director for Louisville Metro Emergency Services, said the shelter-in-place order was issued out of an "overabundance of caution." It impacted less than 50 homes near the facility.

He said fire crews are using a water fog to keep the vapors down to avoid them spreading into neighboring communities.

The shelter-in-place lifted just before 5 p.m.

We will update this story with more information when we learn more.

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