Ammonia leak at Grove forces full evacuation this morning.
Ammonia leak at Grove forces full evacuation this morning. Jonno Colfs

Chemical leak shuts Warwick street

AXIS Industrial Park was forced into lockdown yesterday morning as a potentially serious chemical leak shut down production at Warwick Grove Juice factory.

Emergency crews were called to the plant in Kenilworth St about 7.30am after staff noticed a strong smell of ammonia.

Grove Juice CEO Andrew Ross said chemical levels within the plant were electronically monitored.

"After the smell was noticed, the levels were checked and found to be at a warning level," he said.

"No one was directly at risk at the time, but procedures and protocols meant all staff needed to be evacuated and emergency services notified."

Mr Ross said the ammonia leak was found to be coming from a failed shaft seal on a refrigeration unit compressor.

"Our internal sensors and monitors indicated we needed to call for support.

"Our first priority in all cases is the health and safety of our staff."

Warwick Fire Station officer Dennis Burton said upon arrival they blocked off the road to ensure no traffic near the scene of the leak.

"We called for gas tight suits from Toowoomba and put a scientific team from Brisbane on standby," he said.

"When the suits arrived, senior firefighter Michael Coombes and Lieutenant Ben Tomkins suited up and entered the plant.

"With our gas sampling equipment we were able to deem the area safe and a repair technician was sent in to fix the broken seal."

Mr Burton said their responsibility was to err on the side of caution at all times.

"It's our job to make sure the area is safe for the public and our team," he said.

"With this type of incident we have to make sure sure we arrive uphill and upwind, and we were lucky this morning as there is only one way into Grove Juice.

"We treat all incidents, no matter how minor, by following the same guidelines and procedures."

Mr Burton said once the technician reported the seal fixed, the firefighters handed the site back over to plant management.

"We left the scene about 10.30am," he said.

"We were lucky today to have Matthew Groves with us, who is currently studying for a firefighter promotion and is training to manage this type of incident, so it great to have his expertise and knowledge on hand to assist."

Mr Ross said the plant had never experienced a leak before. It was minor but I'm happy how everything was handled," he said.



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