EYEWITNESS LOCAL NEWSKanawha County Officials Voice Concerns About Institute Chemical Incident
from Eyewitness News Online
Reported by: Kallie Cart
Web Producer: Jeff Morris
Reported: Sep. 3, 2013 3:15 PM EDT
Updated: Sep. 4, 2013 6:04 AM EDT
Institute , Kanawha County , West Virginia
Serious concerns are being raised after a chemical leak at a plant in Kanawha County. That leak, which caused a precautionary evacuation of Catalyst Refiners and a neighboring facility, went unreported for two hours. Now county officials and those living in Institute, want to know why they were left in the dark.
"If they evacuated anyone down there they should have given the community that same option," James Patterson, who works as a pastor in Institute says.
Neighbors and students at West Virginia State University were never notified about a potentially harmful chemical release at a nearby plant.
It happened Tuesday at 11:20 a.m. at the Catalyst Refiners facility. The plant's manager, Scott Schmitt, says an operator improperly mixed hydrogen peroxide, nitric acid and water, causing an 80 gallon spill inside the facility. As it decomposed, it turned into a white vapor billowing over the plant and eventually nearby Bayer Crop Sciences.
Both facilities evacuated their buildings as a precaution.
But Catalyst Refiners didn't inform emergency services until two hours after the spill. Commissioner Kent Carper says an official with Bayer was the first to call Metro 911 to report a problem at Catalyst Refiners. Once emergency responders arrived, they found out about the leak.
"If that information would have been given to emergency officials, they would have time to look at it at the height of the leak, they could have also gauged the seriousness of it and made an independent evaluation," Commissioner Carper says. "Sometimes chemical plants don't want to do that because they're afraid of being responsible for evacuations, injuries, inconveniences. That's just too bad, the public has a right to know."
Following the Bayer Crop Sciences explosion in 2008, laws were changed requiring all chemical spills to be reported within 15 minutes so emergency responders know whether to issue a shelter in place or evacuation.
"We were promised that now the plants have a fool-proof system and that to get back into the good graces of the community, the minimum thing that would happen would be that everybody would be notified and all precautions would be taken," Patterson says. "Its clear, based on what I'm hearing now, that that did not happen so that's inexcusable."
The plant's manager says they were working to assess the spill and admits, they failed to notify the proper authorities in time but says the public was never in any danger.
Catalyst Refiners was closed the rest of Tuesday so they could assess what went wrong and clean up the spill.
Kanawha County officials are voicing concerns about a chemical incident that occurred in Institute Tuesday that they said took a company more than two hours to notify officials about the emergency.
Kanawha County Emergency Management was notified about 12:30 p.m. Tuesday that an incident was occurring at Catalyst Refiners in Institute, according to news release from the Kanawha County Commission.
Emergency Management officials responded to the scene. Metro 911 was notified about 1 p.m. by a neighboring facility. County officials said Catalyst Refiners failed to notify Metro 911 or Emergency Management of the event until about two hours into the incident.
County officials said Catalyst Refiners failed to notify the public of the situation and only said there is no harm to the community.
“The failure of this particular operator to timely advise emergency officials not to the mention the public at large, is unacceptable,” Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper said. “At some point they felt the need to evacuate their facility and other adjacent operators correctly, took the same action. My concern is with the public and our first responders.”
Emergency officials remain on the scene of the incident and are continuing to evaluate the situation. Officials have been told the chemicals involved were hydrogen peroxide and nitric acid. Catalyst Refiners estimated the release was about 950 pounds of nitric Acid.
Kanawha County officials thanked Bayer CropScience for the notification of the incident that did not occur within its plant.
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