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UPDATE: Athens plant says employee hospitalized for 'unrelated sickness', no public danger

(WTVC)

UPDATE:

McMinn County Dispatch has confirmed that EMS crews were called to the Mills Products plant in Athens for the second day in a row.

Leslie McKee with the city of Athens tells us that one employee was transported to an area hospital early this morning with similar symptoms to those reported Wednesday.

17 people were taken to the hospital Wednesday after what is described as "exposure."

Mills Products released a statement Thursday morning at 10:30 a.m.:

"Mills Products had to send another employee to the hospital this morning that was feeling ill.
We believe this to be an unrelated sickness from the situation yesterday.
As a precautionary measure we had the Athens Fire Department and Athens Utility Board sweep the plant for natural gas and carbon monoxide.
The plant was determined to have no issues. We have checked all equipment and found no issues.
All employees transported yesterday to the hospital were released yesterday."

NewsChannel 9's Brandon Evans spoke with Mills Products president Darrell Adcock.

Adcock says there is no danger to the public based on reports from Athens firefighters, TEMA, Athens Utility workers and McMinn Hazmat crews, who all swept the building during the last two days and found nothing.

Brandon also spoke with an Athens Utility Board official who says his crews swept the plant Wednesday and Thursday and found nothing.

He also told us the 17 patients treated Wednesday had blood work done, and none of them showed any exposure to any toxic materials.

Depend on us to bring you updates to this story online and on-air as they are made available.


ORIGINAL STORY:

Athens City Manager C. Seth Sumner confirms 17 people were taken to the hospital after some kind of "exposure" event at the Mills Products plant in Athens.

This happened Wednesday morning at Mills Products in Athens, located on Northridge Drive. Work at the plant has shut down while hazmat crews find the source and nature of the exposure leak.

The plant later reopened just after 1 p.m., after crews could not find the source of the problem.

NewsChannel 9's crew arrived on the scene around 10:45 a.m. to see several ambulances leaving the property.

A statement from a spokesman for Mills Products says:

This morning, as a precautionary measure, Athens Fire Department was called to Mills Products, Inc to check for a possible gas leak at the facility.
At approximately 830am two employees experienced symptoms of ongoing illnesses, and shortly thereafter numerous employees began complaining of nausea and headaches. The Athens Fire Department and Athens Utility Board has been on scene and testing the building multiple times for gas leak and carbon monoxide. No signs of a gas leak or carbon monoxide are present.
Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) have been reviewed for possible exposure or similarities in symptoms, with no common links identified yet.
All employees have been evacuated, accounted for, and are safe. All employees experiencing headache and nausea have been transported throughout the morning as a precautionary measure.
All employees complaining of symptoms are in the care of medical facilities and are being evaluated. The symptoms are only effecting first shift team members.
Second and third shift employees have been contacted as part of Mills Products welfare checks, and no complaints have been stated by those employees.
In an unrelated event earlier this morning another employee was air-lifted due to personal medical issue and is being treated.
Emergency and utility personnel remain on scene and are continuing to test the building and will continue to monitor employees and the building.

Around 2:00pm Wednesday afternoon, Mills Products released an update to their statement:

"Mills Products has been cleared by the Athens Fire Department, TEMA, and McMinn County Emergency Management.
No new cases of illness have been reported and some of the employees treated earlier this morning have been released by their healthcare providers.
Mills Products will continue monitoring the situation and they are still looking for the root cause.
The facility is now operating on a normal schedule and no new cases of illness have been reported. Emergency personnel are no longer on site."

NewsChannel 9 also saw a hazardous materials team entering the plant.

Athens' city manager says all employees are safe and accounted for.


Its website describes Mills Products as "a turnkey metal fabricator with a reputation for producing lightweight, aesthetically superior parts through hydroforming, tubular stamping and roll forming. Since 1945, major manufacturers have trusted us to make their components stronger, lighter and more economical."

Depend on NewsChannel 9 for updates as we get them.

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