Chemical mixture at Atchison, Kan., plant covers city with toxic gas

By Tyson Fisher, Land Line staff writer | 10/21/2016

Thousands of students in Atchison, Kan., were evacuated and residents were ordered to stay indoors after an inadvertent chemical mixture in a holding tank at a plant resulted in a large plume of gas covering a good portion of the city. More than 30 people were treated for minor injuries.

At approximately 8 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 21, sulfuric acid and sodium hypochlorite were mixed in a holding tank during a delivery at an MGP Ingredients plant in Atchison, Kan. As a result, a giant plume of toxic gas covered much of the city as winds caused the cloud to spread, according to City Manager Trey Cocking.

Thousands of students were evacuated from the middle school, high school and Benedictine College and residents were ordered to stay indoors and close all doors and windows. Students and residents were given the all-clear sometime around 11 a.m. as the gas dissipated.

Approximately 34 people were treated with respiratory discomfort. Cocking said the gas did not impose any severe risks to nearby residents.

According to Cocking, the chemical mixture occurred during a delivery when chemicals were placed into the wrong holding tank. The chemical reaction caused a plume of gas, but no fires or explosions. Cocking said the MGP plant has been around since the 1940s and had an explosion 15 years ago and another smaller explosion within the past year.

As of press time, it was not clear whether or not a tanker truck and its driver were involved with the incident.

The Missouri Department of Transportation temporarily shut down U.S. 59 at Missouri Route 45 to cut off access to Atchison, but has since been reopened.

MGP “is a leading supplier of premium distilled spirits and specialty wheat proteins and starches,” according to its website. Headquartered in Atchison, the company was founded in 1941 and has approximately 320 employees.

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