Cause of Costco leak that sent several workers to hospital under investigation

A Costco Wholesale location in Hazlet was reopened Thursday after about 20 employees reported feeling ill following an apparent refrigerant leak in the building Wednesday morning.

Shortly after 6:30 a.m. Wednesday, Hazlet Township Police received a call about a possible Freon leak in the building, according to Sgt. Michael Galvin.

The business was not yet open to customers, but Costco management removed employees from the building, Galvin said.

Firefighters at the scene told police that contractors were in the building at the time repairing the cooling system. Shortly after 7 a.m., contractors were able to isolate the leak and began ventilating the building, Galvin said.

Police received another call shortly before 9:30 a.m. for a report of a burning plastic odor and the smell of freon in the store, Galvin said.

“At that point, Costco managers started saying there were complaints of headaches from employees,” Galvin said, and police responded to the scene. “One of our guys came in there and said there were about 20 employees experiencing symptoms: headache, nausea, etc.”

The store was not open to the public at the time.

First responders set up a command post, and the Monmouth County EMS Task Force dispatched 15 to 20 ambulances to the scene.

Of the people tested, five were taken to hospital, police said, including four to Bayshore Medical Center and one to Riverview Medical Center.

A hospital official confirmed that four people were treated and released from Bayshore, but said no patients had been taken to Riverview.

The exact cause of the incident remains under investigation.

A manager at the Hazlet Costco location referred all questions to the company’s corporate office. Corporate officials had no comment on the matter Thursday.

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Matt Gray can be reached at [email protected].

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