New Jersey

NJ Costco Evacuated, at Least 20 Staff Sickened in Apparent Freon Leak: Cops

The store will be closed until further notice, authorities said

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A New Jersey Costco was evacuated and has been closed until further notice after an apparent leak of freon, the gas used as a refrigerant in air conditioners, sickened an estimated 20 employees, the local police department said Wednesday.

Hazlet police and firefighters, along with Monmouth County's EMS Task Force and hazmat team got an initial report about the leak at the Route 35 wholesale store around 6:45 a.m. Staff tried to ventilate the store and delay its opening.

Less than three hours after that first call, another call came in, according to Hazlet police. That call from Costco indicated about 20 employees were complaining of headaches and nausea tied to the leak that started in the refrigerator section.

All Costco staff at the location were outside when authorities arrived. Up to 20 ambulances were also allocated to the scene in anticipation of heavy patient count, so authorities advised people in the area to expect significant traffic delays and a high emergency presence as the patients and scene are continually evaluated.

Most of the patients were expected to be taken to hospitals out of an abundance of caution, but there was no indication any were seriously hurt.

"We thank all of our public safety partners for their quick response to this situation and wish all staff that was affected a quick recovery," Hazlet police said.

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