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At least 52 taken to hospital to be treated for respiratory discomfort following chemical leak in Atchison

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ATCHISON, Kan. -- At least 52 people have been taken to local hospitals to be treated for respiratory discomfort after a chemical leak at a business in Atchison, Kan., Friday morning, one who is listed in serious condition.

Atchison County Emergency Management reported that at about 8 a.m., that a chemical spill occurred at MGP Ingredients between 10th and 14th Streets south of Main Street.

"At 8:02 a.m.,  two chemicals inadvertently mixed on top of each other and that caused the gas plume to develop," city manager Trey Cocking said.

Atchison residents were asked to stay indoors and turn their air or heat off to prevent outside air from coming in their homes. People who did not live in Atchison were asked to avoid the area.

MPG Ingredients is a supplier of distilled spirits and specialty wheat proteins and starches. The company, which began in 1941 is headquarted in Atchison, Kan. More than 200 people currently work at the plant. EPA data shows MPG Ingredients was last inspected for air quality in March of 2016. In the past five years they were fined $6,000 for two EPA clean air violations.

EPA records also show that it has been out of compliance multiple times in the last three years for EPA water quality requirements. However, the latest inspection show the plant in compliance.

State and federal inspectors were at the plant as recently as last month, according to federal records.

A spokesperson with the emergency management team said they believe the chemicals could be a mix of sodium hydochloride and sulfuric acid. The city manager has not confirmed that those were the two chemicals.

According to an alert from Benedictine College, classes were canceled. The college made buses available to shuttle students out of the affected areas.

The Atchison Public Schools superintendent also said that the middle school, high school and alternative Central School were evacuated as a precaution. The elementary school sheltered in place.

The Atchison County Courthouse was evacuated and District Court was canceled for the remainder of the day.

FOX 4's health reporter Meryl Lin McKean reached out to Atchison Hospital who said they had 34 patients experiencing upper respiratory discomfort. They will be kept for six hours for observation. St. Luke's Cushing hospital in Leavenworth reports they treated two people with respiratory issues.

The city manager tells FOX 4 at least five of the people being treated were city employees, including police officers and firefighters. No one sustain life-threatening injuries.

At 10:42 a.m., the city had issued an all clear, but advised anyone experiencing any difficulty breathing to go to the hospital. Mosaic Life Care in St. Joseph said they would have extra staff on hand to help treat people who were feeling ill.

The city manager says the city is not aware of any serious injuries and the cloud of gas had mostly dissipated.

At 10:42 a.m., students were being allowed to go back to their classes.

The Basehor-Linwood vs. Atchison High School football game is still scheduled to kick off Friday at 7 p.m., at Atchison High School.

Image courtesy of FOX 4 viewer Corie Dunn

Image courtesy of FOX 4 viewer Corie Dunn

Facebook user Corie  Dunn shared video of the plume. Dunn says he shot the video with his drone.

Click here to watch the video

FOX 4 has crews on the scene and will be adding new information as it becomes available.

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