Officials respond to hazardous chemical leak

Aerial view of the plant from Chopper 5.
Aerial view of the plant from Chopper 5.

By Nick Kenney - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - An area near Fite Road and Highway 51 was evacuated for a short time Tuesday after a leak of hazardous materials.

Officials said there was a leak of sulfur trioxide at the Lucite plant on Fite Road shortly before 9:00 a.m. Tuesday.

"It came from a storage bin from that plant around 9 o'clock this morning," Shelby County Sheriff's Department spokesperson Steve Shular said.

During the initial response to the leak, Shelby County sheriff's deputies shut down traffic on Highway 51, and several nearby businesses were evacuated.

Approximately 40 homes and nearly 200 people were evacuated, Shular said.

"Our main goal here today simply was to secure the area," Shular said, "make sure people were safe."

Additionally, all planes were grounded at Charles Baker airport in Millington as officials assessed the danger the situation posed.

According to Shular, no injuries were reported.

Sulfur Trioxide can cause burns to the skin, eyes, lungs and digestive tract.  Severe exposure can result in death.

Diane Owens of Woodland Baptist Daycare said things were getting back to normal late Tuesday afternoon.

"This morning was very hectic for us," Owens said.  "We just sat tight.  Everybody stayed in their rooms.  We tried not to freak out."

Company officials said there was no threat to the surrounding area.

Copyright 2010 WMC-TV. All rights reserved.