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Smithfield still cleaning up, workers waiting to go back

TAR HEEL, NC (WWAY) — The latest on the Smithfield ammonia leak. The world’s largest pork production plant still is not producing anything after yesterday’s incident.

Smithfield representatives say all safety checks for factory machinery and equipment was up-to-date.

“It was just a catastrophic failure of a tank,” Smithfield’s Dennis Pitman said.

Catastrophic, because a water tank that size can cause a lot of damage.

“It picked up a car,” Pitman said. “It picked up equipment and moved it six to eight feet.”

Three-hundred thousand gallons of water. Enough to fill 10 average sized swimming pools released in a matter of seconds.

“In effect, you had a tidal wave,” Pitman said.

A wave that knocked off the cap to an ammonia tank releasing chemicals forcing thousands of workers out of the building. Now workers are out of the job for a couple of days.

Anthony Page works on the trimming floor. He says he’s glad to get some time off.

“Work 12 hours Saturday and Sunday. A lot of places are closed, so like I said, another day would help me,” Page said.

Now he has another day he can run some errands.

“Might go to the beach now!” he said.

If Page works the first shift he might get that chance.

“Hopefully we’ll start production on second shift tomorrow afternoon,” Pitman said.

But until then questions about making up lost hours go unanswered.

“If we don’t get paid, it’s gonna back you up for a minute,” Page

Page thinks extended shifts will be one way they’ll make up for the time.

“Where we was having Saturday off, we’ll probably have to work Saturdays,” Page said.

Yesterday 12 workers went to the hospital. Two were kept overnight for observation. There’s no word yet if they were admitted because of heat exhaustion or chemical exposure.

More: continued here

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