Foodland Waipio evacuated after 800 pounds of Freon leaks into storage area

Foodland Waipio evacuated after 800 pounds of Freon leaks into storage area

WAIPIO, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Honolulu Fire officials are trying to determine what caused a large leak of Freon gas from the refrigeration system at the Foodland grocery store at the Waipio Shopping Center.

The leak was discovered at about 10 a.m. Saturday.

"The store managers were all coming out, telling every to get out of the store, get a leak," said Kaleo Kalamau, who works nearby as a security guard. "Nobody knew what was going on until ten minutes after."

While workers and others waited outside, fire department hazardous materials crews went in and discovered that it was a potentially dangerous leak.

"Capacity of this system is 800 pounds, and all 800 pounds evacuated the system," said acting Fire Battalion Chief Paul Fukuda.

Most of the leak was contained to a storage area behind the store, but some of the gas made it into the store itself. Hazmat crews wearing oxygen masks went to contain the gas and dispose of it properly, and to vent the store.

Several people who wanted to do their grocery shopping thought the worst when they saw the store closed with fire trucks parked outside.

"I thought somebody got injured," said Christine Paiste. "That was my thought, but it's not."

Fukuda said two Foodland workers were exposed to the gas but did not need any medical treatment.

Freon is usually colorless and has a slight odor, but it can appear like a white mist in larger quantities.

"Refrigerant of this amount is considered to be a large spill, and it can be an asphyxiant. It displaces oxygen, so it can be dangerous in large quantities," said Fukuda.

The fire department said some work had been done on the system a few weeks ago, but it was unknown what caused Saturday's leak.

The all-clear was given, and workers and customers were allowed to re-enter the store, at about 12 noon.

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