26 Jun 2020

Fonterra factory in Hamilton evacuated after ammonia leak

5:19 pm on 26 June 2020

Fire and Emergency crews have left the scene of an earlier ammonia leak at a Fonterra plant near Hamilton.

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(File image). Photo: 123RF

The unit had been evacuated and no presence of the gas had been detected outside of Fonterra's property.

Fire and Emergency had one crew there monitoring the site, but they have now left.

They were called at 2.30am to Fonterra Te Rapa due to an ammonia leak, which involves a hazardous chemical and refrigerant that is colourless, with a potent smell.

Earlier today, a Fire and Emergency spokesperson said the spill was quite large and the factory had been evacuated.

Eastern Waikato Area Commander Daryl Trim said everyone on site was safe and accounted for.

"We're expecting it to be leaking for most of the day, to drain off the vessel that's leaking," he told Morning Report.

Despite the spill being contained, Trim said crews remained on site to monitor the evaporation and ensure there was no impact to the area.

"We're checking constantly, we're going across the river to make sure on the other side is not getting anything impacted by this as well.

"Most of the plant is shutdown at the moment.

"When they put [the chemical] into a refrigerator plant and pressurise it into a liquid form, it chills down, but as it comes from the atmosphere it actually evaporates off. So that's what we're letting it do, because we can't quite get into where it's leaking to try and stop it."

Fonterra said they were relieved their staff were safe and they were working out the cause of the leak, but there was no impact on their operations since the site was shutdown over winter.

Trim said they had the protective gear needed but it wasn't physically possible to reach the source of the leak with all of it on.

The Longtail Pet Motel nearby was also safe, he said. No homes had been evacuated.

This morning, 20 Fire and Emergency crews reduced the ammonia levels from 70 percent to 50 percent.