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Authorities investigating cause of Taft chemical leak

Posted at 6:59 AM, Jan 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-23 10:05:25-05

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — The Kern County Department of Public Health says they are investigating the cause of the toxic chemical leak that forced many to evacuate in Taft on Wednesday. The agency also says they will investigate how future incidents can be prevented.

"This is a permitted facility by Kern County Public Health Services, we regulate them, we take today very seriously," said Michelle Corson, a spokesperson for the Kern County Public Health Department.

The investigation comes after hundreds of gallons of acrolein leaked at Taft Manufacturing, located at 1900 block of South Lake Road, at 10 in the morning. The chemical leaked from a large container shipped to the facility from overseas. Officials say the container arrived with a small leak.

"We received a call from the Taft facility and the caller initially reported about 16 ounces of the chemical was released from the tank that was shipped in," said KCFD Battalion Chief Brandon Smith at a news conference.

But Smith said the problem grew to about 250 gallons.

"But they do have the absorbent that neutralizes that chemical fully over and absorbing it so it should be mitigating at this point and we do expect it to pretty much dissipate," he said.

The leak has since been cleaned up. But in the process, dozens of people were evacuated from the plan and officials encouraged anyone living or working up to 6 miles away to evacuate the area.

"I had smelled it in the air, and so I decided I needed to get out of here, and it is hard to seal the windows," said one Taft resident who evacuated.

The Kern County Fire Department announced that all evacuations were lifted by about 8 p.m.