Cargill halts some production at Schuyler plant

2014-02-11T11:32:00Z 2014-02-12T03:53:53Z Cargill halts some production at Schuyler plantBy Tyler Ellyson / tellyson@columbustelegram.com Columbus Telegram

SCHUYLER — A fire that damaged a portion of the roof at Cargill’s beef-processing plant in Schuyler continues to cause problems.

The company called off some production activities Monday and Tuesday after water started leaking onto the plant floor in an area where beef carcasses are trimmed.

According to spokesman Mike Martin, the Schuyler plant resumed all production for the first shift Monday before the issue surfaced.

Water used to extinguish last week's blaze that later froze in insulation between the ceiling and roof began melting and dripping onto the fabrication area after production resumed Monday, Martin said in an email Tuesday morning.

Because of employee and food safety concerns, the company canceled its second shift Monday and called off all harvesting and most fabrication for Tuesday, according to Martin, who said the plant is using raw inventory from an on-site storage facility to continue producing and shipping ground beef for the short-term.

“We’ll need to harvest and fabricate cattle soon to produce more raw material for ground beef,” he said in the email.

Martin said the majority of the plant’s more than 2,100 employees won’t return to work until those production activities resume — and there currently isn't a timetable for when that will happen.

Until the necessary repairs are complete, Martin said that’s a “day-to-day decision.”

Employees at Cargill plants in Colorado and Kansas are working additional hours to fill customer orders, he said.

Martin said it’s too early to determine whether employees in Schuyler will be working extra shifts to make up for the lost production there.

"We cannot speculate on weekend operations at this point in the week," he said.

Cargill’s beef-processing plant in Schuyler was damaged early Thursday morning after a rooftop heating and cooling unit malfunctioned, causing a fire and ammonia leak.

The plant was evacuated and Cargill canceled all production there for Thursday and Friday.

Nobody was injured during the incident, but 41 firefighters from the Schuyler, Howells, Clarkson and Columbus Rural fire departments responded, with some remaining at the scene for nearly 12 hours.

The Schuyler Cargill plant processes more than 5,000 head of cattle daily.

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