Owner apologizes after major ammonia leak at Hawaii - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Hawaiian Ice owner apologizes after major chemical spill at Pier 38

(image: Hawaii News Now) (image: Hawaii News Now)
(image: Hawaii News Now) (image: Hawaii News Now)
KALIHI (HawaiiNewsNow) -

Businesses are back to normal at Pier 38 more than 24 hours after a major ammonia leak at Hawaiian Ice Company caused evacuations.

Neighboring businesses took a blow from the dinner-time evacuation. And on Tuesday, co-owner of Hawaiian Ice Company apologized to the community.

"I'm sorry for the people on the pier whose lives we impacted and had to evacuate, some of them were in the middle of having a beer and a really good time ... and we're on it," said owner Jim Cook.

The company’s refrigeration system can hold up to 6,500 pounds of ammonia gas. It's was still unclear how much of the chemical leaked out, but the Honolulu Fire Department said the origin of the leak came from a system of piping.

"Currently, the operation is to vent the room where the ammonia gas is trapped to get it down to an acceptable level," Fire Battalion Chief John Bowers said.

Honolulu Fire Department officials said the gas in the air got up to "dangerous levels."

More than 100 people were evacuated from Pier 38, including busy restaurants, around 5 p.m. Monday. At least 15 people were treated for exposure, and one person was transported to a hospital.

Those who evacuated described a burning sensation to their eyes, face, nose and mouth.

"It's an asphyxiant. So if you're in there, in the area of high concentrations … it's an asphyxiant," said Bowers.

The chemical is colorless, but has a sharp smell to it and can be deadly.

"We can't detect any further leaks. So what we're doing now is just allowing for the remaining fumes and vapor to dissipate just in the air," said Hawaiian Ice Company co-owner Sean Martin.

The owners said engineers who designed the plant are flying in from San Francisco. They will go through the plant and re-certify everything before it is turned back on.

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