Chemical spill sends 9 Knox veterans home staffers to hospitals

Chemical spill sends 9 Knox County veterans home staffers to hospitals

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A Hazmat crew responded to Ben Atchley State Veteran's Home. A Hazmat crew responded to Ben Atchley State Veteran's Home.

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - A chemical spill Thursday morning at the Knox County veterans home in Karns sent nine staff members to hospitals.

Nine members of the cleaning and laundry staff at Ben Atchley State Veteran's Home at One Veterans Way suffered respiratory problems after they mixed chemicals that produced a chlorine-like vapor.

Fire crews got the call at 9:45 a.m.

"They had mixed two chemicals," explained Karns Volunteer Fire Chief Ken Marston. "It was a bleach and a cleaning solution which they felt were the same and compatible and unfortunately when they were poured together, they created a reaction. That chemical reaction releases a chlorine gas that's an irritant to the lungs."

"The chemicals themselves pretty much neutralized each other. It was just a matter of cleaning them up and placing them in a drum," Marston said.

Since the contaminated area was immediately evacuated and isolated, no nursing home residents were affected.

"We have contingency plans and emergency plans for pretty much any event. We followed those plans and they were successful," said veterans' home administrator Doug Ottinger.

That was welcome news to family members like Brenda Toups, who was coming to visit her 91-year-old mother.

"I hate to hear it affected anyone, but I'm so glad that the residents are okay," Toups said.

One patient was kept in a hospital Thursday for observation. The other eight patients were released from hospitals by Thursday afternoon.

The Karns Volunteer Fire Department and a Rural/Metro Hazmat crew responded to the scene.

Home Depot was doing a service project at the home Thursday morning, but none of its volunteers were affected by the spill.

The Ben Atchley home is one of three state veterans homes in Tennessee. The other two are in Humboldt and Murfreesboro.

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