Friday, October 06, 2006

Scary

Apex, North Carolina is evacuated today because of a plume from a chemical fire that went the wrong way:

Shifting winds forced Apex officials to expand an evacuation area early Friday to protect residents from a chemical gas plume that continued to spread from an industrial fire that has raged since late Thursday.
Read the rest.
Town Manager Bruce Radford said a leak at the EQ North Carolina plant on Investment Boulevard sent several large plumes of chlorine gas into the air around 9 p.m. Thursday. A large fire broke out at the plant afterward, sending flames more than 100 feet into the night sky and setting off multiple explosions.

Apex and Wake County officials declared a state of emergency early Friday and evacuated about 16,000 people -- half of of Apex -- within hours.

At 6 a.m., Radford said the chemical plume produced by the plant fire had been spotted by the Eva Perry Library, near the intersection of U.S. 64 and Lake Pine Road. Hundreds of homes in the Sterling Buckingham subdivision were to be evacuated, and the residents sent to a shelter at Green Hope High School, he said.
My prayers go out for everyone in that town. I hope nobody gets hurt.

Some guy was quoted as saying this is the worst possible hazardous material incident. It is bad, but I respectfully disagree. Hydrofluoric acid, a chemical used in many industries including oil refining on a large scale, is pretty much the worst possible chemical in the world to have running amuck. While chlorine will kill you and cause surface burns as it forms hydrochloric acid on your skin, HF will pretty much eat through you right down to the bone, as nothing will stop it until it reacts with the calcium in your bones. Either way, scary stuff.

The article kind of turns into a smear piece towards the end, with the reporter basically instigating:
EQ's Web site states that the company serves "R&D facilities, educational institutions, manufacturing companies, government agencies, hospital and medical facilities."

State environmental officials fined EQ $32,000 in March for failing to minimize the possibility of a release of hazardous-waste materials or implement a contingency plan for a possible release.

Town officials were unaware of the fine and would be discussing the matter with state officials, Weatherly said.

"It certainly would have been prudent for us to have been aware," he said.

In August 2005, a large explosion and fire rocked an EQ plant near Detroit. More than 1,000 nearby residents were evacuated.
I don't see why this is relevant to the story. All something like that does is make a whole lot of people really mad and hurt that business. If they managed to evacuate 16,000 people, it would appear to me that they rectified any inadequacies with regard to contingency plans.

Hate to tell you, WRAL, but when you're dealing with those kind of chemicals, accidents are literally inevitable. I'm sure that town knew EQ was there and gladly took the tax revenue it generated. You can't have your cake and eat it, too.

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