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Chemical cleanup ends overnight at Toyota plant

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Posted at 6:00 PM, Aug 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-17 15:18:08-04

GEORGETOWN, Ky. (LEX 18) — Soon after an orange cloud of nitric acid gas caught the attention of people around the Georgetown Toyota plant, 200 employees were evacuated.

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LEX 18 asked Toyota on Monday when they would get back to work. Representatives said that the second shift would be delayed until 7:15 p.m.

Later, around 8 p.m. and then 11 p.m., LEX 18 received a few calls about how employees were at the plant but not allowed inside.

Michael Hennigan, the Director of Georgetown- Scott County EMA, can't speak for when employees got called to work, but he can say that cleaning up a hazardous material takes time.

"It's a very intricate process, and we are very careful and very methodical with how we do it," Hennigan said.

He added that around 8 p.m. last night, an environmental cleanup company took over. Their job was to wipe the walls and all hard surfaces to make sure everything was clean. They were also tasked with pumping out the contaminated tank and getting the chemicals offsite.

"You could definitely feel the pressure," Hennigan said. "We are aware of how many dollars it costs per minute for lost production, and so we try to do things as efficiently as possible. They've got their priorities, and we've got our priorities, and we just have to come to an agreement somewhere in the middle where we can do what we need to do safely and get the job done and get them open as soon as possible."

Hennigan said cleanup of the tank and buildings finished overnight.

In a statement provided to LEX 18 at 1:45 p.m. Wednesday, Toyota said that on Monday, second shift workers were scheduled to begin as normal, at 7:15 p.m. as they determined there were no health or other risks to employees. When employees got to work, the company said some in the impacted area were directed to report to other areas while safety protocols were completed. Due to the time required to finalize these protocols, the decision was made at midnight to cancel second shift.

"Toyota teams and external agencies worked diligently to safely and efficiently return to normal operations the following morning," Toyota said in a statement.