By Ashley Ludwig (Patch Staff) - September 9, 2016 8:30 pm ET
LAKE FOREST, CA — Six workers at an Irvine trash sorting facility became suddenly ill this morning with symptoms of coughing, sneezing, runny noses and watery eyes. The cause, later discovered to be from seven leaking tear gas canisters located at the facility.
Though Orange County Fire Authority Hazmat Technicians searched the Waste Management Facility's Sunset Environmental Transfer Station in Irvine to determine the cause, they were unable to "sniff out" the source, according to OCFA Capt. Larry Kurtz.
"Vapors must have dissipated before Hazmat Technicians got there, and that would have been a reason why sniffer equipment didn't pick up," Kurtz said.
The initial incident began at 8 a.m. this morning, when seven Sunset Environmental workers developed non-life threatening symptoms.
"Six of the workers were transported to area hospitals," OCFA Capt. Larry Kurtz said in interview. "The seventh didn't require transport."
The Hazmat technicians used specialized equipment to alert them if certain dangerous chemicals were found, however they were not able to locate the source of the workers' symptoms.
"Sometimes it takes longer than expected to solve calls, but all for a good reason," Kurtz said.
Twenty employees left the facility, according to Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Larry Kurtz, and a hazmat crew is on the scene. Six workers were transported: two to Hoag Hospital in Irvine, two to Kaiser in Irvine, and two to Coastal Community Hospital, according to Kurtz. The business is located on the 161o0 block of Construction Circle West.
The transfer station is one of two handled by Waste Management of Orange County and handles and sorts trash, recyclables, construction and demolition materials and green waste, according to the WM website.
Unacceptable items at the facility include used oil, batteries, paint, chemicals, medical waste or hazardous waste.
Hazmat Technicians from Station Four in Irvine, from the UCI Campus, is on the scene. It took an hour of planning before entry was made into the facility, as Kurtz originally explained.
"They monitored the area for safety, and planned how they dressed for entry," he said.
In this case, they wore full protective gear, but nothing was discovered that was harmful according to Kurtz. The Orange County Health Department discovered the canisters later in the day.
There is no word yet as to the condition of the workers who were sickened by this incident.
Tear gas canisters send 6 Waste Management employees to hospital
By Cole Rosengren | September 12, 2016
Leaking tear gas canisters at Waste Management’s Sunset Environmental Transfer Station in Irvine, CA caused six employees to be hospitalized on Friday, as reported by Lake Forest Patch.
Seven workers reported symptoms of coughing, sneezing, runny noses and watery eyes. One did not require transport to a hospital. In total, 20 employees were evacuated from the facility.
Firefighters and a hazmat team from Orange County arrived with specialized equipment to check for hazardous chemicals and eventually cleared the facility for work to resume.
By the time hazmat technicians entered the facility, about an hour after the incident, the gas had dissipated and they couldn't locate the containers. The Orange County Health Department discovered the seven offending canisters later in the day.
A driver for Allied Waste was also hospitalized for exposure to chemical smoke after a similar incident in California last month. A customer had placed pool chemicals out for collection which started smoking after they were placed in the truck.
This is yet another example of what can happen when customers don't pay attention to disposal regulations. As reported by Patch, this particular Waste Management facility does not accept oil, batteries, paint, chemicals, medical waste or hazardous waste. Safety is already enough of a concern for workers that they shouldn't have to worry about dangerous items coming from careless customers. Therefore, a push for more education should continue to be a priority among industry leaders.