Polk Jail evacuated Tuesday for hazmat spill

Published 11:13 am Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Polk County Jail in Columbus was evacuated on Tuesday morning, May 16 following a chemical spill. There were 17 inmates at the jail at the time, who were taken under officer supervision to the Womack building across the street. A hazmat team out of Asheville came to clear the spill and all inmates and employees were evaluated by EMS. (photos by Leah Justice)

UPDATE from County Manager Marche Pittman, 12:37 PM:

“At approximately 9:23 AM, we received a call from the Sheriff’s Office about a container of Paraquat Dichloride spilling. The container was being kept as evidence in an ongoing investigation in the Sheriff’s Building. Based on the health hazards to humans, Emergency Management immediately notified the Hazardous Materials Regional Response team and evacuated the building. Currently, the response team is securing the hazardous materials and the staff is being medically monitored for exposure symptoms. The inmates have been medically evaluated and have been transported to surrounding counties for continuous medical monitoring. Approximately 40 people were affected by the spill. We are working to mitigate the materials and continue to monitor affected people inside the building. There is no risk to anyone in surrounding buildings. We will continue to keep you updated as the situation changes.”

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UPDATE from County Manager Marche Pittman, 2:37 PM:

“Currently, the hazardous chemical has been mitigated outside and inside the building. A clean up crew has been called and is enroute out of Greenville SC. The Sheriff’s Office employees are still being monitored for any changes in health and we expect to be releasing them in another hour or so. We are not sure how long the clean up will take inside the facility and the Sheriff’s office is not going to re-open today. All calls for emergencies should be directed to 911 and all administrative calls are answered at our communications center.”

UPDATE from Town of Columbus, 5:07 PM:

The potentially hazardous chemical spill at the Polk County Sheriff’s Office is contained, and no threat is posed to the public. Affected areas have now been cleared for re-entry and Ward Street is open to through traffic. Please exercise caution as there may still be emergency personnel in the area.