HESSTON — Three people were hospitalized and dozens of others waiting for a chance to go back to work after a chemical spill at GVL Poly, 8515 N. Hesston Road, Bld. E, in Hesston today.
According to Harvey County Sheriff T. Walton, six people were affected by the fumes following a chemical spill. He could not identify the chemical by name, but told the Kansan five gallons of the material spilled within the factory.
"They evacuated the entire building," Walton said.
Allan Cronen, CEO of GVL Poly, told the Kansan the company was able to clean up the spill on its own and pending a review by local health officials work at the plant would resume by 3 p.m. today.
Three people were taken to Newton Medical Center, listed in serious condition.
Cronen would not reveal the name of the chemical that had spilled, but told the Kansan there are only two chemicals used in the plant at Hesston.
"Both are minor irritants," Cronene said. "Those who are suffering were working close by the machine. ... It is a minor health risk. ... They need to get some oxygen and some rest."
A call to 911 was made by a man struggling to breathe at 10:19 a.m. Building evacuation happened minutes later.
"They made a call out for Hazmat, we do not have a Hazmat Unit in Harvey County anymore," Walton said. "... I can't tell you why we don't have it."
Cronen said it was standard company policy to request Hazmat assistance during a chemical spill.
The chemical has been identified by law enforcement only as "an isocyanate product."
According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, isocyanates are "highly reactive, low molecular weight chemicals." They are used in the manufacture of flexible and rigid foams, fibers amd coatings like paints and varnishes, and elastomers. Isocyanates are considered irritants to the mucous membranes of the eyes and gastrointestinal and respiratory tracts.
GVL Poly plant in Hesston opened in May of 2014. It manufactures multiple plastic products, including a line of coolers. As of June of this year, the plant employed 92 people. According to Cronen, the plant currently employs 120 people, with plans of expanding to 200 by March and 300 by the end of 2017.
Harvey County Emergency Management, Hesston Fire, Hesston EMS and Newton Fire/EMS responded to the incident.