Gas leak causes business evacuations, road closings

NORCROSS - A carbon dioxide leak at a Norcross business caused the Gwinnett County Fire Department to shut down portions of Steve Reynolds Boulevard and evacuate nearby businesses Tuesday morning.

A leak in a 24,000-pound vertical carbon dioxide tank on the outside of the Praxair Distribution Inc. building sent a white vapor cloud into the air, according to a Fire Department press release.

The Fire Department's Hazardous Materials Team was alerted to the situation at 8:10 a.m. and set up a hot zone as a precautionary measure. The hot zone included two nearby businesses where approximately 30 to 40 people were evacuated, as were parts of Steve Reynolds Boulevard near its intersection with Beaver Ruin Road.

Lt. Thomas Rutledge, the Fire Department's public information officer, said high concentrations of carbon dioxide could be potentially dangerous.

"We have CO2 levels at low concentrations in the atmosphere, but at high concentrations it can be an asphyxiant and cause respiratory problems," Rutledge said.

The situation was brought under control about 9 a.m. and no injuries were reported.

Occupants of the evacuated businesses were allowed to return to work and Steve Reynolds Boulevard was reopened at 9:11 a.m.

Rutledge said the hour-long closing resulted in some minor problems on the heavily traveled road.

"It did cause a traffic tie-up for a short time," Rutledge said.

Praxair Inc. is a worldwide provider of industrial gases.