Questions linger following Round Rock ammonia leak



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Posted on July 21, 2013 at 5:50 PM

Updated Monday, Jul 22 at 7:36 AM

ROUND ROCK, Texas -- Questions are still lingering following Saturday's ammonia leak in Round Rock. The leak at Michael Angelo's Frozen Italian Foods locked some people out of their neighborhood for hours. No one got hurt but some residents say it should have been handled differently.

 "We didn't have much information to go off of," said Kirstyn Galicia, who's family lives nearby.

She echoes the concerns of many others in Round Rock, who say city and county officials should have done more to keep people informed.

"We did hear the police car come by and just tweet his horn but that's about all he did," said Fidel Acevedo. He lives less than 200 yards from the plant.

"The concentrated levels of it are very unhealthy so that's why we're being so cautious," Round Rock Spokesperson Will Hampton told KVUE on Saturday.

Hampton says Williamson County Emergency Management used the reverse 911 system to notify people who live downwind, or west of the plant; warning them to shelter in place.

"Essentially what that means is shut your windows, shut your doors and, unfortunately, turn off your A.C.," Hampton explained.

Police also blocked off the entrance to the neighborhood, allowing people out but not in.

"The neighborhood needs an exit plan, an emergency plan," Acevedo said.

Acevedo plans on bringing the issue up with county commissioners this week.

"Once you block it we're either trapped in here or we can't come back in in any other direction. I think they can do something about getting us a way in or out of the neighborhood if something like this occurred," Acevedo said.

He's lived in the neighborhood since 1973.

"Its affordable, its low income and a lot of seniors live here," he said.

That's why Acevedo's other concern is safety.

"Anything could happen, anything could happen over here. I want to find out what kinds of chemicals they have in there," he added.

Hampton says the 2nd reverse 911 alert came out just before 7 p.m., giving people the green light to turn on their air conditioners. Police also sent a message to subscribers of the Citizen Alert system.

Still, Acevedo says it's not enough.

"It is a big deal, it is," he claimed. "Nobody came knocking on anybody's door telling them to stay inside the house, don't run your air conditioning. These are vital things that we need to know."

The Round Rock Fire Department and Williamson County hazardous material teams responded to the leak just before 2 p.m., they cleared the area at 12:30 a.m.

Many people took to social media to voice concern.

Gary Oldham tweeted "Though I live at the other end of Round Rock, I find it appalling that I didn't learn of an ammonia leak for 3 or more hours, and only then via media."

TX_Lisa tweeted "As a citizen of Round Rock, I'm becoming increasingly concerned! Wish I had more specifics!"

On the Round Rock Police Department's Facebook page Joe Bingham wrote "I do appreciate the alerts but they were a few hours late."