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A chemical spill at Saputo cheese plant in Tulare, CA, sent two workers to the hospital and halted production for hours.

Tulare and Visalia firefighters got the call June 22 to the 900 block of East Levin Avenue, the Saputo Cheese USA Inc. location, for reports of an ammonia spill.

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A forklift struck a pipe causing the ammonia to leak, said Rodnie Roberts, Tulare Fire Department division chief. Production was immediately stopped and people were forced to evacuate.

Two people were taken to Kaweah Delta Medical Center, Roberts said. By Saturday afternoon, the two had been treated and released. The type of injuries sustained were not immediately available.

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Ammonia can cause burns, breathing discomfort and irritation to the lungs and eyes.

As a precaution, streets around the plant were closed to traffic. The traffic closure remained until 8 a.m. Saturday.

Roberts said plant personnel and Visalia Fire Department’s HazMat team worked on locating the pipe. The broken pipe spilled ammonia for nearly eight hours until the valve could be┬áturned off.

In addition to firefighters, the county’s environmental health personnel responded to the incident.

Roberts said he didn’t know the amount or value of the spilled ammonia.

Roberts added the plant was shut down on Saturday, but expected to return to production after repairs were made and clean up was finished.

A group of workers gathered near the plant’s entrance Saturday. They referred questions about the incident to the company’s office in Quebec, Canada.

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