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Chemical Leaks from Fairfield Plant

FAIRFIELD, Conn. – “Minute quantities” of a potentially hazardous chemical leaked from a Fairfield company Thursday, officials say. No people have been harmed by the spill. Residents in the immediate area have been advised to stay in their homes until the scene is clear.

The stretch of Commerce Drive between Black Rock Turnpike and Halley Avenue is closed to traffic while crews deal with the situation. Businesses in the area have been evacuated, and the Fairfield Metro train station is closed.

The leaking chemical is gallium trichloride , a substance used to make light-emitting diodes. A Commerce Drive chemical plant, 5N Plus, was creating the substance when its system over-pressurized. Water vapor containing gallium tricholride was emitted to alleviate the pressure.

“The system worked perfectly,” said the company’s general manager, Roger Ngassam. “As soon as we knew that something was wrong, we evacuated and all the staff is OK.”

Exposure to gallium tricholride vapor in large quantities can cause respiratory problems, nausea and rashes. Officials believe that the concentrations in Thursday’s leak are too small to cause health problems, but Ngassam said the leak is still “under investigation.”

The leak had been shut down by 12:30 p.m., Deputy Fire Chief Art Reid said. Hazmat crews are still in the area to conduct atmospheric tests of the vapor and to determine the cause of the leak. He added that 5N Plus has been “very cooperative” with emergency crews.

“They run a very clean operation here,” Reid said. “For now it looks like we have at least mitigated the problem.”

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