DEQ to look into chlorine tank leak on coast

Published 11:57 pm Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality has taken over an investigation into a chlorine-tank leak near the Gulfport Yacht Club.

No injuries were reported in Wednesday night’s incident, but several people had to be evacuated from the Yacht Club and the Port of Gulfport.

After responding to reports of a strange smell in the area, firefighters discovered a 150-pound liquid chlorine drum leaking from three small holes at the former Marine Life facility.

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Fire Chief Pat Sullivan said the chlorine was meant for water purification. Leaks such as this happen periodically, Sullivan said, and “we don’t have any one thing that was a cause.”

Police Cmdr. Leonard Papania said that while the release is being investigated, it is not necessarily a criminal matter.

DEQ reportedly is investigating the demolition contractor who was working with the six tanks, as well as the property owner. Fines are possible. DEQ does not yet know who owns the tanks, said Eric Dear, chief of emergency services at DEQ.

Dear said the leaking tank has been removed and officials are now deciding if they will dissolve the chlorine into water and what they will do with the container. He said if they dissolve the chlorine, it may end up in wastewater treatment.

Chlorine gas exposure can cause breathing problems and skin and eye irritation.

“I don’t know the concentration of the chlorine,” Dear said, “but there were complaints of burning eyes.”