A chemical leak at Arnold Air Force Base prompted a brief closure of Wattendorf Memorial Highway, as well as shelter-in-place orders and evacuations over the weekend.
According to AEDC officials, workers at the base discovered a powdered bromine leak during a facility walk down of the turbine engine cooling towers at approximately 5 p.m. Friday. Some of the powdered bromine compound mixed with the humid air and gasified, creating a gaseous plume. A cordon was established and nearby buildings evacuated.
No employees reported symptoms of bromine exposure, according to base officials.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) bromine exposure “could cause you to cough, have trouble breathing, get a headache, have irritation of your mucous membranes (inside your mouth, nose, etc.), be dizzy or have watery eyes.”
Emergency personnel closed the highway onto the base as a precautionary measure, rerouting traffic around the base property for several hours, reopening about five hours later at 10:30 p.m.
At that time, utility operators returned to their work stations, according to a statement from the engineering complex. A remediation contractor was contacted to clean up the remaining compound by Saturday evening, the base said.
While the compound was being cleaned and crews were waiting for the gas cloud to dissipate, base officials said the commissary and BX were both closed, and only emergency personnel were allowed to enter the base. By Saturday evening, base officials announced the powdered bromine compound remediation was completed, and air quality in nearby buildings had returned to normal. Base entry was also allowed to resume as normal, according to base officials.
The cause of the leak was not revealed to The News by press time.