Fayetteville Plant Back Open After Ammonia Spill

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

The Pinnacle Foods plant in Fayetteville is recovering after an ammonia spill that shut the facility down earlier this week, according to wastewater treatment officials. The spill was not reported to local law enforcement or workplace safety officials.

The plant was evacuated late Monday night after ammonia spilled into the sewage system on-site, which leads to the Fayetteville Wastewater Treatment Facility, according to a project manager with wastewater treatment.

Treatment facility workers diverted the contaminated water from the food plant into a holding pond temporarily, to stop the ammonia from spreading down the line. The move was a precautionary measure, since wastewater workers found four to five times the usual amount of ammonia coming into the wastewater treatment plant, said Duyen Tran with the Fayetteville Wastewater Treatment Facility.

“We notified water and sewer workers not to work near or downstream from the spill as soon as we learned about it,” Tran said.

Tran said after the leak they didn’t see much impact to their treatment process until Tuesday afternoon. The food plant was temporarily evacuated, but was back up and running at least by Thursday.

The Fayetteville Wastewater Teatment facility is authorized by the state to issue permits to industries like Pinnacle Foods and allow them to discharge their wastewater to the treatment plant.

“Anything they put down the sewer other than their normal permitted waste, they are required to inform us,” Tran said. “They did notify us early enough.”

However, Pinnacle Foods employees did not notify the Fayetteville Fire Department or the Little Rock division of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration of the spill, according to fire department and OSHA officials.

The food plant is required to contact the local fire department in the case of any such workplace injury accidents. There are no reports of injuries from Pinnacle Foods or from local emergency crews, although an employee told 5NEWS a man was injured after being burned by the ammonia.

Carlos Reynolds with OSHA said Pinnacle Foods had not contacted them. Reynolds said industries are only required to contact them if there’s a fatality or three or more workers injured.

Pinnacle Foods handled the spill internally, since it has its own Hazardous Materials team, the employee told 5NEWS. HazMat team members were spotted in protective suits at the plant by workers.

In 2012, OSHA cited Pinnacle Foods for 27 serious safety and health violations at the company’s Fayetteville facility after an ammonia leak in December 2011.

Fayetteville Wastewater Treatment Facility officials said the spill isn’t posing a danger to the public.

Calls to Pinnacle Foods by 5NEWS went unanswered and unreturned.