A portion of the roof on a Kendallville food distribution center collapsed Thursday morning, causing piping carrying anhydrous ammonia to refrigeration units to crack and leak the dangerous gas.
The collapse occurred at Performance Food Group, a sprawling operation that distributes products to national restaurant chains. Performance Food employs about 200, and the company described the operation as floor-to-ceiling racks of frozen foods, refrigerated foods and non-refrigerated items. The building at 2930 Performance Drive, off U.S. 6, is about nine years old.
The section of the roof that collapsed was atop the cooler section of the warehouse. The company said the precise cause of the collapse wasn’t immediately known.
The piping was on the roof and cracked when it lost support, Kendallville Police Chief Robyn Wiley said, so the ammonia gas was also released outdoors and not confined within the plant.
The fumes could be smelled about a quarter-mile away, he said.
Wylie said there were no injuries, but the company said that six employees were treated for ammonia exposure. Most of the company’s trucks had already left the building at the time of the collapse, Wylie said.
The wind carried the ammonia gas southwest, toward other plants within an industrial area of Kendallville, but no one was evacuated. Residents were advised to stay indoors and shut off ventilation systems to keep the gas from entering, Wiley said.
The leak was capped after about 1 1/2 hours, Wiley said.
Wiley described anhydrous ammonia as extremely toxic, adding that it can cause unconsciousness in seconds and even death within a short period. What effect the collapse will have on customer deliveries and when the center will return to normal operations hasn’t been determined, the company said.