IMAGE: CHEMICAL LEAK
NBC News
A plume of vapor rises above an industrial park in the East Point suburb of Atlanta early Thursday.
updated 12/16/2004 10:29:27 AM ET 2004-12-16T15:29:27

Acid leaking from a tank prompted the evacuation of hundreds of homes and the closing of schools on Thursday near an industrial park just outside Atlanta.

A 5,000-gallon tank containing a chemical called acetic acid sprung a leak Wednesday night, releasing a vapor into the air.

Acetic acid is flammable and can cause severe burns on contact. Two officers who responded to the calls were treated after complaining of burning eyes from the vapor, but officials said they do not expect any long-term health problems.

Authorities planned to isolate the area until the tank empties rather than try to plug the leak, East Point Fire Chief Rosemary Cloud said.

“This is a long, drawn-out process,” Cloud said. “It’s a huge operation.”

About 40 streets extending more than a mile around the leak were closed, and some commuter bus and train service in the area called East Point was curtailed.

Acetic acid is used in the production of a variety of products including plastics, photographic film and pharmaceuticals. Vinegar is a highly diluted form of the acid.

“There was a smell going on all day,” said Michelle Jett, an evacuated resident. “It smelled like vinegar and it hit you.”

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