A CHEMICAL leak at the newly commissioned Runcorn energy from waste plant which led to 17 employees being treated in hospital is now under investigation.

An internal inquiry is being carried out and the Health and Safety Executive is examining how the the spillage of hydrated lime powder which is deemed an irritant to eyes and skin happened.

One worker who had an underlying health condition was taken to Warrington Hospital by ambulance.

Sixteen other casualties admitted themselves, causing a lock down of the hospital’s accident and emergency department as staff dealt with the decontamination.

Fifteen of the workers, employed by Keppel Seghers, the principal contractor, returned to the site hours after being treated.

One man who was detained in hospital overnight is still off sick, whilst another employee has now returned to work.

The £452 million incinerator in Picow Farm Road which has only begun commissioning and will be run by Viridor, will supply the neighbouring IneosChlor chemical plant with up to 20 per cent of its energy.

The spillage happened at 10.45am on Wednesday, March 19.

A Runcorn Energy from Waste spokesman said: “The incident related to a spillage of hydrated lime powder which is used to neutralise the vent gases produced on site.

“The spillage was localised to a small area inside the facility and work on the remainder of the plant and neighbouring Ineos operations continued as normal.

“The localised nature of the incident did not warrant the sounding of any on-site alarms for general evacuation.

“There was no risk to public safety or need to immediately alert members of the locla community.”

Simon Wright, chief operating officer at Warrington and Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The incident was initially reported to hospital staff as a blast or explosion but was later confirmed to be a contained exposure to hydrated lime.

“We were able to quickly put our decontamination plan in place and treat and discharge those affected.”

Cheshire Police and Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service said they received reports of the incident at 1pm.