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West Texas chemical leak continues

Betsy Blaney, Associated Press

LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) -- A chemical leak in West Texas continued unabated for a second straight day on Thursday, and nearby residents were being kept away from their homes as a precaution.

Hazardous materials experts were working to stop the leak of hydrogen chloride from a tank outside an agricultural company that forced the evacuation of about 100 families. The evacuation that began Wednesday evening was conducted in an area several blocks around the Bayer CropScience facility near Interstate 27.

No injuries have been reported.

When hydrogen chloride is exposed to moisture in the air it forms hydrochloric acid, which can be corrosive to skin and dangerous to lungs if inhaled, Lubbock fire officials said.

There's no estimate on how long it might take to stop the leak, but officials hoped to have the situation resolved later Thursday. The initial plan called for transferring what remained inside the leaking tank into a nearby empty one, Lubbock Fire Marshal spokesman Robert Loveless said.

The Lubbock school district cancelled classes at a nearby elementary school because streets around it were closed, district spokeswoman Nancy Sharp said.

Investigators were trying to determine what caused the leak. Company employees noticed a leak from an apparent faulty valve on one of four tanks on a trailer in a parking area outside of the facility.

The vapor formed after hydrogen chloride meets moisture is heavier than air and will sink or be dispersed by winds, Loveless said.

The tank that is leaking has a 3,000-pound capacity and is under pressure. The gas is not explosive, though "it's still a pressurized vessel and deserves respect" as to its potential for danger, Loveless said.

Bayer CropScience spokesman Monty Christian said the chemical is used to remove lint from cotton seed.

Christian says the leaking cylinder is from AirGas and that the company is providing the hazmat experts.