North Tonawanda firefighters evacuated several families from their homes for a couple of hours early today after a chemical leak was detected at the Durez Plastics plant on Walck Road.
There were no injuries.
Six to eight families left their homes on Wilson Avenue, a dead-end street north of the chemical plant, around 5:15 a.m. and returned shortly before 7:30 a.m. after the leak was contained at the plant.
Plant officials discovered three leaking drums of phenolic resin, a product used in making plastics, in a storage facility at the northwest corner of the site.
The drums, which were emitting fumes and formaldehyde, were contained by the plant's emergency team, officials said.
John McKellar, the plant's operations manager, said he does not know what caused the leak but speculated that pressure might have built up in the drums from a chemical reaction. Plant officials are investigating the cause of the leak.
McKellar said the incident was a rare occurrence.
"We haven't had an evacuation at this facility in many years," he said.
Margaret Toellner, who has lived on Wilson Avenue for 51 years, said it was the first time she had been evacuated.
She, like her neighbors, was awakened by the plant's whistle, which blew eight times. By the time the whistle stopped blowing, firefighters were pounding on her door.
"It all happened so fast," said Mrs. Toellner, 76. "I mean, what do you grab first? I have valuables, but I decided I couldn't leave without my dog (a Dalmatian named Sparky)."
Some of the evacuees left in their cars. Others were taken to the nearby Sweeney Fire Hall.
Durez officials said they will speak to the evacuees later today.
Officials emphasized that the leak was unrelated to the multimillion-dollar remedial work that will include putting a trench around the plant to prevent migration of chemicals. Durez is a division of Occidental Chemical Corp.