updated 8/3/2009 6:10:20 PM ET 2009-08-03T22:10:20

Authorities say two people were critically injured and more than 4 dozens were hospitalized after a chemical leak at a trash disposal company in southeast Massachusetts.

Fire Chief Paul Leger says firefighters responded to ABC Disposal Service Inc. in New Bedford just after 10 a.m. Monday after a report that something had been brought to the facility that was making people sick. He says 55 people were transported to St. Luke's Hospital and Charlton Memorial Hospital in Fall Rivers.

Ed Coletta, spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Protection, says the fumes were caused by trash that was brought in and was being manually sorted.

Leger said investigators are still trying to determine what type of chemical was leaked and its source.

Firefighters responded to ABC Disposal Service Inc. in New Bedford just after 10 a.m. for a report that something brought to the facility was making people sick, Fire Chief Paul Leger said.

Workers lose consciousness
As many as 10 people lost consciousness after breathing in the fumes, authorities said. The victims were decontaminated by a hazardous materials team on site before being taken to hospitals.

St. Luke's Hospital in New Bedford said it received 33 patients, three of whom were critical. Twenty-six of those patients were brought in by bus, and they were listed in good condition, the hospital said. The hospital said symptoms included nausea, respiratory distress and dizziness.

Twenty-two more victims were taken to Charlton Memorial Hospital in nearby Fall River and they were all listed in good condition.

ABC Disposal is a 40-year-old business that collects, transports and disposes of more than 200,000 tons of nonhazardous waste per year, according to the company's Web site. The company disposes residential, commercial and industrial waste.

The facility is located in an industrial area of the coastal city about 55 miles south of Boston, and city residents were not considered to be in danger, Leger said.

Inspectors sent to site
At least two emergency responders were among those treated for exposure to the fumes, and several police officers also complained of symptoms, said New Bedford Police Lt. Jeffrey Silva.

Ted Fitzgerald, a spokesman for the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, said the agency had sent a safety inspector and an industrial hygienist to the site to investigate.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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