Hazardous Materials Release At Metro Metals Recycling Facility Prompts Quick Emergency Response

Portland, Ore. — Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) responded to a hazardous materials release at the Metro Metals Recycling Facility on NE Columbia, reported shortly before 1:30 PM. The incident occurred when employees, engaged in routine tasks, inadvertently punctured an unmarked and improperly discarded gas cylinder. This led to the release of an unknown gas affecting up to 10 individuals in the vicinity.

A HazMat 2 response was initiated, involving three emergency response vehicles, the Hazardous Materials Specialty Team, the Hazardous Materials Coordinator, and three chiefs, totaling 25 PF&R members on the scene. Recognizing potential health hazards, the EMS Chief requested two transporting ambulances, bringing the total responders to 29 individuals. One person was transported to a local hospital for a higher level of medical evaluation with minor injuries, while others in proximity to the gas cloud declined additional medical treatment.

The incident prompted the Portland Bureau of Emergency Services to dispatch PF&R crews to the 5600 block of NE Columbia Boulevard at 1:25 PM. Nine individuals were affected by the accidental release of an unknown gas from a cylinder within the recycling warehouse. The cylinder, part of a large pile awaiting processing, emitted a green-colored gas when punctured during the movement of recyclable materials.

PF&R established a Hot-Warm-Cold zone to manage the incident effectively, ensuring the safety of responders and individuals in the vicinity. Responders within the hot zone wore appropriate safety gear, including air bottles and specialized gloves. The medical evaluation area was set up 100 yards away from the warm zone to guarantee safety.

The hazardous materials team identified the gas as likely chlorine, based on physical evaluation, detection devices, and clues such as a uniquely identifiable fitting on the cylinder. Chemical paper used in pH detection indicated a highly acidic substance, further supporting the identification of chlorine gas. A fan was utilized to disperse residual gas until no dangerous readings were detected. The cylinder was then moved to a secure area.

The hazardous materials coordinator is collaborating with plant management to establish a safe timeline for the return to normal operations in the affected area.