23 people sent to hospital after hydrochloric acid leak at St. Catharines, Ont., auto plant

Up to 23 people were sent to hospital after a “hazardous incident” at a THK Rhythm Automotive Canada Ltd. plant in St. Catharines, Ont., on Tuesday morning.

St. Catharines fire Chief Dave Upper said that at about 9 a.m. ET, a contractor at the Louth Street plant hit a valve that leaked five litres of hydrochloric acid.

He said the acid vaporized and three workers at the scene were able to shut it off, but have skin and “respiratory exposures.” Upper said the three workers were sent to hospital, along with nine more workers who suffered “minor exposure.” 

Upper said the acid cloud was contained within the facility.

Not long after the leak, Niagara Health was advising people in the area to avoid the emergency department at the St. Catharines hospital site except for “life-threatening or critical emergency,” as it was receiving patients due to the “hazardous incident.”

Niagara Health now says the emergency department services returned to normal operations as of 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday.

Niagara Health said it received a total of 23 patients starting at 10:41 a.m. 

Lynn Guerriero, Niagara Health’s president and chief executive officer,  said, “This was an excellent example of our health-care team coming together to handle a serious situation in a calm, efficient and professional manner.”

Upper said Ontario Ministry of Labour officials are on site and Hazmat teams are working at cleaning it up, but don’t know when that work might be complete.

Niagara police told CBC Hamilton that they responded to a call at a “commercial business located in the area of Louth Street and Ridley Road” at 10:34 a.m. “for a workplace accident involving a chemical spill.”

A man who answered the phone on Tuesday at THK  said the company does not have a comment at this time.

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