Inspectors said a mechanical failure led to a natural gas leak at a Lincoln County manufacturing plant Monday afternoon, affecting more than 30 employees.
Lincoln County Fire Marshal Mike Futrell said R.W. Garcia is set to reopen for production today after inspectors double check the gas lines.
A total of 27 of the 40 workers at the plant Monday were exposed to carbon monoxide.
The plant manager evacuated the building and contacted local authorities around 1 p.m. after employees told him they were feeling light-headed and dizzy, according to an R.W. Garcia press release.
The Lincolnton facility, situated near the Catawba County line as part of the Lincoln County Industrial Park, employs a total of 65 people and produces tortilla chips and other corn-based snack items.
While all those who were exposed in the incident were in “stable” condition when first responders arrived on scene just after 2 p.m., Emergency Medical Services rushed 14 individuals to Carolinas Medical Center-Lincoln and CMC-Main in Charlotte for treatment. More than half of the 14 were deemed “critical.”
Rombs said an additional 17 people, including a firefighter from North 321 Fire Department, maintained “moderate” levels of exposure.
North 321 served as the incident’s primary responding agency and was accompanied by various other fire departments from across the area along with EMS units from Gaston and Catawba counties.
Upon arrival, firefighters detected high levels of carbon monoxide, particularly in the plant’s office area, and immediately shut off the building’s gas.
Rombs was not surprised the leak traveled throughout a large portion of the plant.
“You can have a leak half a mile away,” he said, “and if the air movement is just right, it sucks it across the plant.”
The North Carolina Regional HAZMAT team in Charlotte joined the scene Monday and assisted emergency crews with determining the leak’s source.
The facility has been declared “safe,” and all hospitalized individuals have been released.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.