Dozens of people in Wynnewood were evacuated Saturday after an acid leak at the Gary-Williams Co. refinery sent potentially dangerous fumes floating through the air north of the plant, Garvin County Undersheriff Steven Brooks said.
Residents of about 45 homes were to be kept from their homes overnight, Brooks said. Red Cross officials were helping the displaced residents find places to stay Saturday night, he said.
About a week ago, the same plant caught fire and about 150 people were temporarily evacuated from their homes. Saturday’s leak of hydrogen fluoride may be related to last week’s fire, Brooks said.
He said a fire-damaged valve may have caused the leak.
Officials from the refinery could not be reached for comment.
Brooks said area residents were first moved to the Wynnewood High School football field after the leak was detected at the plant. High school graduation was taking place at the school, he said.
Brooks got a call from the refinery at about 6 p.m. warning him of the leak.
“They just advised us that it was an acid leak and it would be best to evacuate those houses in the line of the wind,” he said.
Hydrogen fluoride liquid leaked out of the refinery and turned to gas, Brooks said. The chemical, known as hydrofluoric acid when it is combined with water, can burn straight through skin and even damage bone in its liquid form. As a gas, it can cause respiratory irritation or, in strong doses, can cause death from irregular heartbeat or from build-up of fluid in the lungs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Brooks said he had not heard of injuries related to the acid leak.
The refinery in Wynnewood produces gasoline and other products. It is the smallest of the state’s five active refineries, with the capability of producing 53,000 barrels per day.