PORTLAND, Ore. – A reverse 9-1-1 call was supposed to go out to residents within a half mile of a metal fabrication plant that was leaking toxic gas into their neighborhood Wednesday night, but no one received it.
The release of gas at Precision Castparts happened after a power outage caused an air-scrubbing system to fail. The gas built up in the plant and leaked outside.
During the leak, officials urged residents to stay inside their homes because the chemical cloud was dangerous. It was a highly corrosive mix of nitric acid and hydrofluoric acid known to cause burns and blindness.
A request for a callout by Clackamas County Fire went to dispatch centers but somewhere along the line the emergency alert was lost and not even residents who live right across the street from the plant were called.
Neighbors know Precision Castparts is a defense contractor that uses a lot of dangerous chemicals. They said they are extremely concerned about not getting the warning that there was a hazardous material release.
“No reverse 9-1-1 – no anything. If it hadn’t been for friends calling, we wouldn’t have known,” said Ginger Jennings who lives right across the street from the plant. “I mean a knock on the door or even a car with a microphone would have been better than nothing.”
“We didn’t have any idea – no TV on or anything. Not until friends started calling were we even aware of what was going on,” said neighbor Shelly Skelton.
Precision Castparts sits right on the county border, Multnomah County to the north and Clackamas County to the south.
There have been no reports of any of the plant’s neighbors getting sick from the chemical cloud. But they do want to know that if there is another release they’ll be warned.
This wasn’t the first time these neighbors have seen problems at the plant. There have been fires and explosions in the past. Even then, the people who live closest to Precision Castparts say they weren’t warned of dangers.
“We’ve never had a reverse 9-1-1 call or even anything telling us what’s going on across the street,” said Skelton.
A spokesman for Clackamas County Fire said he made the original request for a reverse 9-1-1 call to every home within a half mile of the plant. He’s working with the Portland Fire Bureau and dispatch centers to figure out if it was human error or a technical breakdown.
Precision Castparts is one of two companies in Oregon that’s on the latest Fortune 500 list, ranking 409. The other is Nike.
Precision makes special metal components for military jets and other aerospace projects. It also makes several medical prosthetics.