Employees at produce facility in Belle Glade return to work after chemical leak

Published: Mar. 30, 2023 at 6:55 PM EDT
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Employees at one of the largest sweet corn producers in the world returned to work Thursday, a day after after a chemical leak forced everyone to evacuate.

The incident happened Wednesday morning at Pioneer Growers in Belle Glade.

Vice President of the company Stewart Mann told WFLX, nine people were taken to the hospital for evaluations, and all were released within a couple hours.

"They were checking to make sure they were OK, no respiratory issues, some people might have a pre-lying condition that could affect them, and they were just making sure everyone was good and healthy," Mann said.

Mann said they evacuated nearly 200 workers from the building when the chemical first leaked.

"Of course, you're nervous for the safety and well-being of not only our employees but the community," he said.

The chemical leaked was chlorine dioxide. According to Mann, chlorine dioxide is a level one chemical, meaning toxicity levels are low.

"It's a chemical used for food safety, to help protect consumers against any type of pathogen that might be in any type of crops before they eat them," Mann said.

In 75 years of business, Mann said this is the first incident they’ve had.

"The guy that actually built the machine is on sight today checking to make sure it's not going to happen again," Mann said. "We're also putting in some more protocols just in case something did happen it would shut off more quickly," Mann said.

He said some of the people returned to work the next day, but they all had the option to stay home.

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