Neighbors of the Longview Fibre Co. paper mill complained of nausea and headaches after inhaling fumes caused by what the company said was the release of 200 pounds of toxic hydrogen sulfide.
The noxious substance, with a rotten-egg odor, was released from a chemical recovery boiler over a period of four hours Monday afternoon, the company confirmed.
The release was blamed on a broken fan in a recovery furnace, mill spokesman Curt Copenhagen said. The fan blows in air to aid combustion, and the lack of it caused some of the sulfur compounds to oxidize and not vent through the stack, he said.
Due to dilution, it’s doubtful concentrations of the gas were strong enough to cause any severe health effects, Copenhagen said.
Yet there were reports of nausea, headaches and other low-level maladies.
“The whole bus load of people were getting nauseated,” said Karma Hart, who was riding in a bus when the vapors hit near the Kaiser Permanente medical clinic in Longview.
In low concentrations, hydrogen sulfide can cause headaches, nausea and sleep disturbances. Its pungent odor is detectable at extremely low levels.