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Lethal chemical leaks at factory

FOUR separate investigations were under way last night after a major incident which involved the release of a potentially lethal toxic chemical at a plant.

Officers from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Health and Safety Authority (HSA), the Dublin Fire Brigade and gardai were dispatched to the Arch Chemical plant on Watery Lane in Swords, Co Dublin, shortly after 5pm last night when an emergency containment plan was put in place.

Thirteen units of the Dublin Fire Brigade -- including its hazardous materials unit -- attended the accident.

They were alerted after an anti-fungal material called copper pyrithione or copper Omadine -- was discharged at the plant after a boiler overheated.

The powder is considered to be highly toxic. It can be fatal if inhaled and can also burn the eyes. The area was declared safe by 8.30pm.

The building was evacuated and there were no injuries. Nearby factories -- including the neighbouring Bristol-Meyers Squibb Pharmaceutical plant -- were also alerted.

"It was a serious incident," Gerard O'Leary of the EPA told the Irish Independent last night.

The EPA will continue to monitor the site over the weekend. Officials from the company could not be reached for comment last night.

However, it's not the first time that Arch Chemicals has had a potentially serious accident.

The multinational was fined €1,000 in November 2008 after pleading guilty to two counts under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 following an incident at the same plant on May 21, 2007.

Irish Independent