Chandler, AZ — A nitrogen gas leak at an Intel Corp. plant forced evacuations on Saturday and sent 11 people to the hospital. The leak sickened up to 43 people.
One of the buildings at the corporation’s second largest manufacturing plant, was evacuated over the leak, which was identified as nitrogen triflouride.
Intel spokesman Chuck Mulloy explained that the source of the leak was a manufacturing tool in one of the chipmaker’s silicon wafer fabrication facilities. Mulloy added that the tool causing the leak was taken offline and “there is no ongoing danger.”
Intel Corp. spokeswoman Rachel Sutherland added that the leak came from the exhaust system of one of the production tools in Fab 32. The leak may have been caused by a faulty O-ring, according to initial investigations.
Battalion Chief Tom Dwiggins, a spokesman for the local fire department, added that the leak didn’t threaten any nearby neighborhoods. He explained, “They monitored the air inside and outside the structure and in all cases the air was clean.”
A worker first started complaining of breathing issues early Saturday morning. More than 75 firefighters were called to the scene after other workers also had difficulty breathing. The workers taken to the hospitals suffered from difficulty breathing, nausea, and skin and eye irritation, according to Dwiggins.
After they arrived, Dwiggins explained, “We determined that there was some type of hazardous leak which turned out to be nitrogen.” The leak was easily and quickly secured by Intel staff. Operations have since resumed at the plant.
The Intel plant in Chandler currently employs about 11,000 people. Two semiconductor manufacturing facilities are currently operating at the site and the company is building a third, which is scheduled to open later this year.
This isn’t the first problem with the plant, which saw seven people injured in a flash fire started inside a solvent-collection room. Eight people were treated for smoke inhalation later that year after welders working outside the plant caught plastic on fire.