Ammonia Fumes Force Evacuation of Dairy Plant in Missouri

Fumes from an ammonia leak forced the evacuation of a Kansas City dairy plant Tuesday and sickened nearby postal workers.

The leak occurred about 8:30 a.m. in a 300-gallon tank in a compressor room at the Belfonte Ice Cream and Dairy Foods Co. plant near 15th Street and Brooklyn Avenue.

A hazardous-materials response team from the Kansas City Fire Department tried to shut off valves to contain the leak. Initially, the concentration of the gas was too strong, and firefighters had to pull out of the building. After about two hours, the leak was stopped.

Henry Belfonte, general manager of the plant, said more than 30 workers were evacuated. A maintenance worker at the plant and two firefighters exposed to the fumes were taken to hospitals for observation. They were released after a short stay.

Fumes spread to a nearby post office, and some employees complained of stomach aches and headaches and went home. Workers from other area post offices were called in to help deliver mail.

Postal officials said they expected all the deliveries to be completed Tuesday night, although two routes, with a total of about 1,000 pieces of mail, did not get started until early evening.

Belfonte said the leak did not contaminate any finished products.

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Distributed by the Associated Press