Schaumburg police and firefighter/paramedics responded about 6:34 AM Tuesday to a report of a Freon leak at Costco, 1375 North Meacham Road Schaumburg, IL. Police and firefighter/paramedics received a report that a worker accidentally drilled into a pipe that transported Freon inside the warehouse store.
Fire command ordered a Level 1 Hazmat as firefighters put on self-contained breathing apparatus and personal protective gear to protect themselves while they stopped the leak. Firefighters also worked on closing a valve that allowed gas to travel the damaged pipe and escape at the drill hole.
By about 6:51 a.m. fire command reported that the truck company on scene had significantly slowed the leak. Fire command and hazmat technicians were concerned with the volume of Freon that had the potential to continue to leak, and the confirmation of the type of refrigerant gas or Freon, which was determined to be R22. Fire command and technicians checked the Material Safety Data (MSD) sheet for the gas to assure proper and safe management of the scene.
The leak was reported to be about 40 feet inside the rear door of the Costco building on the east side of the building.
Employees, workers and customers were isolated from the leak, and no people were allowed inside the building. No injuries were reported.
Engine 54 set up a hose line for decontamination, in case it was required. Firefighting personnel were later decontaminated of any exposure to the Freon gas.
A valve was secured and the situation was secured by about 7:30 a.m. Firefighters also ventilated the building. The gas is heavier than air, and accumulates in lower spaces causing oxygen deficiency.
The colorless Freon gas is also known as HCFC-22, or R-22. Freon is commonly used as a propellant and refrigerant. These applications are being phased out in developed countries due to the compound’s alleged ozone depletion potential (ODP) and high global warming potential (GWP).
HCFC 22 or R-22 can cause irregular heartbeat, strange sensation in chest, heart thumping, feeling of faint, weakness, nervous system abnormalities, light-headedness, dizziness, incoordination, confusion, drowsiness, anaesthetic effects, apprehension, and unconsciousness. Eyes can become red and painful. In the liquid state R-22, contact with skin can cause frostbite and cold burns.
Excess exposure can cause suffocation and death from lack of oxygen.
The gas is combustible under certain conditions, and can decompose — producing toxic and corrosive gases, including hydrogen chloride, phosgene, hydrogen fluoride and carbonyl fluoride. The gas is NOT flammable at ambient temperatures and atmospheric pressure.
The substance is not believed to be carcinogenic.
All fire companies completed their operations to secure the scene by 7:45 a.m. and were turning over the building to Costco management and the Village of Schaumburg Health Department — expected to arrive in a short time.
International Programme on Chemical Safety
DU PONT Material Safety Data Sheet
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