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Friday, April 23, 2010


Lately, I seem to be encountering the kind of adventures I’m not too keen on repeating.  Today was one I should have thought to be more likely since I work directly across from Trauth Dairy where they process, well, dairy products, and have some nice chemicals in there for reasons I’m sure someone with dairy processing experience can explain.  Anyway, yes, since I work right across from the “dairy” as we call it, we knew it was there, but apparently it felt ignored because it stood up and screamed, “Look at me” really loudly this morning.

Our building is on the corner of two busy streets in Newport.  So, sometimes, there are little fender benders that we can see from the office.  The fire/police departments are a block away, so when they are dispatched, we can hear ‘em going.  When a siren stops nearby, we get nosey and peek out the window to see what’s going on.  A little after eleven this morning we heard the siren stop close by, so I got up to have a little look see.  As I stood up I smelled Windex, but it didn’t occur to me that I shouldn’t be smelling Windex.  My next breath felt like fire ripping down my throat, through my chest and into my lungs.  At that moment I managed to look out the window and see that the siren had stopped real close.  Like, right in front of the dairy…..where all the fun chemicals are.  Turns out I wasn’t smelling Windex, it was ammonia, and it was getting stronger by the second.  Oh, crap.

Shelter in place was not an option for us because the stuff was coming straight into our building.  I can’t walk past a Yankee Candle store in the mall without coughing, so that strong ammonia smell was making me cough like an old pack a day smoker.  We had to evacuate.  Fantastic.  I gathered up all my stuff because I had a slight feeling we might not be making a return trip to our office today.  When I set foot outside, the smell was so strong, it almost knocked me on my ass, and my eyes burned.  We were only a few minutes into this whole thing and my chest hurt.  I can’t imagine what the people IN the dairy felt like. 

We got into one of my coworker’s vehicles because we really weren’t sure where they were sending us.  At this point two things were on my mind (besides trying to even out my breathing so that I didn’t have a panic attack on top of everything).  One of my worries was my coworker who is pregnant.  I mean, you’re not supposed to change a litter box when you're pregnant because of the ammonia.  I was pretty sure a leak from a plant was worse than the litter box.  The other concern was that there was a school next to the dairy……and they appeared to be staying put.  Since we were in a car, our boss asked us to take preggers (I’m not using her name because I don’t have permission…..just go with me here) home.  He didn’t want her to be in the area any longer than necessary.  After we left, the rest of my coworkers were told to shelter in place at the city building.  Our boss told us to stay put where we were (which was at my coworker’s house).  In a short amount of time HAZMAT told them that we weren’t going to be allowed back in the building, so we were sent home.

I’ve never smelled something so strong it still feels like it’s coating my throat.  My boss ended up getting sick from coughing so hard, so he visited a doctor, and my pregnant friend called her doctor to check on what she should do.  Both were told that the ammonia exposure wasn’t going to really cause long term problems because it was limited.  Of course, it could take a few days for the symptoms to clear up.  Knowing this, I’m trying not to worry about the way my throat still feels like it’s coated with muck, and I’m still coughing pretty hard.  I just have to be patient, but it was still pretty scary (and darn uncomfortable).  From what I hear, the school was able to lift their shelter in place order and get the kids home with no harm to them.  There was an injury to a worker at the dairy, but thank God, he’s going to be ok.

That would be the end of the story, but when I was reading a story online about the leak, I made the mistake of reading the comments.  See, the building I work in is the County Administration Building.  This building is new and wasn’t a well liked idea by some people in the county.  You know how it goes…..there are some anti-government people who just will take any excuse to bad mouth the government or it’s employees (because we’re all the spawn of Satan and completely responsible for everything wrong in the world today….oops, our bad).  I was reading this article.  It’s located on which is a site that carries local news for my area.  In my own words, the comments went something like this:  someone was worried about the location of the school and if the kids were safe; someone else responded that they saw in the article that the children were safe, it was the government employees who were in danger; then someone responded that the government employees ARE the danger and a bunch of crybabies. 

Crybabies, seriously.  Listen up whoever the hell you are, you get a few minutes worth of breathing in ammonia and tell me it doesn’t hurt.  I’m sorry you don’t like the current county administration, but that doesn’t mean that we are “crybabies” because we evacuated our building due to an ammonia leak.  Last time I checked it wasn’t such a good idea to breathe that stuff.  I’m thinking that’s why they called the HAZMAT people to the scene.  Hate the administration if you must, but don’t act like you wouldn’t have felt the need to get somewhere safe if you were in our position.  Geeze, we are people too.  How would you like it if I called you names because I didn’t like the business you worked for.  Honestly, it’s not like we left the building to go chase the ice-cream truck.

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