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~ SPECIAL REPORT: Extremely Dangerous Chemical Fire in Apex, N.C. – Evacuations, fire out of control, emissions of Chlorine Gas – UPDATED

Posted by Admin on October 6, 2006

UPDATE: 10/8/06 9:00 p.m.

I have posted 2 related entries you all may be interested in;
1.) A class-action lawsuit was filed on Friday on behalf of the residents of Apex, and others affected by this disaster. This post contains a news release from the law firms involved: “Class-Action Lawsuit Filed Against EQ Co. for NC Chemical Fire

2.) I’ve posted a copy of the complaint filed which is available for download in .pdf form, also included is a link to the website which the lawfirms are creating to answer questions and obtain more information about the lawsuit. Please see: “Copy of Complaint Filed Against EQ Industrial Services in RE: Fire in Apex, NC

(I hope to create a “Focus Page” related to this incident within the next few days that will combine all relevant information and more links.)

UPDATE: 11:00 a.m. Central Time:

PRESS CONFERENCE NOTES:

Keith Weatherly (SP?) – Mayor…

Greatful for the level of cooperation between agencies.

HazMat team has been on site. The building has collapsed. Still a fire on premesis. Going to bring in some video equipment to assess the fire to figure out how to put it out.

Advise folks as they return back to their homes (hopefully soon) make sure the pets if they are experiencing nausea or bleeding to get checked by vets.

Fire is still underway. (Bad technical problems)

UPDATE: 10:00a.m. Central Time:

[To the right is a current picture of the town of Apex which looks literally deserted at this point. The picture is from a webcam which you can view here. The downtown area is closed, and at least half of the town (about 16,000 people) have been evacuated from their homes. Click on the picture to see a full-size version.]

I am attempting to catch up on what has occurred this morning in regards to this hazardous situation. Here is a link to an updated news article from WCNC-TV (NBC) – “Thousands Evacuated From Raleigh Suburb Due to Hazardous Fire

There are reportedly dozens of agencies on the site. It is apparently raining – scattered showers – in the area right now. It is good because it is “scrubbing the air” with the numerous hazardous chemicals from the fire… However, now the pollutants will now be brought down to the ground and can contaminate the soil, as well as waterways.

Perhaps the scariest thing is that they don’t know what all is in the smoke/air from the fire. EQ is a hazardous waste materials plant that stores smaller amounts of waste materials to make “full loads”. There are numerous chemicals stored in this facility in varying quantities. There is apparently an updated list on site, but obviously that is useless. A state agency one reporter spoke with said this plant is inspected four times a month, with the last inspection occuring just a week ago.


(From an interview with a company spokesperson of which a partial “transcript” is below, they have lists they have filed with the EPA, and he stated that one of the officials that he heard interviewed stated that officials do know what kind of waste and chemicals are there. I personally am not sure why at this point the reporters keep saying they have no clue what chemicals could be there. They sound understandably frustrated because this is their home community but listening from the outside it seems (to me at least) that they are letting their emotions get in the way just a little bit now. Obviously there will be a lot learned from this incident for the future)

From the hospital – everyone who was treated in regards to this fire, including 8 police officers and 1 firefighter have been released from the hospital. No-one was admitted. They are reporting that there are still a few walk-ins but no-one is in serious condition.


Partial Transcript of Interview with company spokesman, Robert Doyle communications manager with EQ;
These are not word for word, just notes…


Q: What happened?
Doyle: At this time, it’s really difficult to determine what happened. No employees were at the facility at the time of the incident. Company has been working with first responders to assist.

(According to the reporter the fire also spread to a Petroleum Plant neighboring the site. Article linked above from WCRC states four petroleum tanks from another company were burned.)

Doyle: Facility there works under a Recovery act from EPA — bulking and solidyfying non-hazardous – bulking waste, household hazardous wastes (paint, pesticides, etc…).

Q: EQ fined in March for 6 violations (reads fine details) and asks if fire is because of these violations
Doyle: The spokesperson doesn’t believe the fine has any correlation with this event — at least until they find out more about the situation and what caused it. The issue has been investigated and they are working with the agency that fined them.

Q: Why have local officials say they don’t know exactly what chemicals are there?
Doyle: We do file lists under the EPA Acts, they do submit lists of chemicals to the EPA.

Q: So why this question mark?
Doyle: One of the interviews of the city officials showed they did have a pretty good understanding of what was there.

Q: Environmental disaster for this community, a huge part of this city is shut down, what does your company say (Female reporter is sort of hostile with this question)
Doyle: We do feel for the individuals that have been affected and we are working with agencies as much as they can to mitigate the effects of this event.

Q: How many employees at Apex?
Doyle: 25 employees at the APEX facility.

Q: Any biowaste hazards?
Doyle: No, None.


For Local Residents: This was taken from the Apex Town Website:

Identify local media stations used for emergency information.

Act Now

  • Listen to designated radio/TV station, emergency broadcast system; follow emergency instructions immediately.
  • Bring household members, pets inside.
  • Stay far away from site if possible.
  • Keep body fully covered.
  • Avoid eating/drinking anything uncovered.
  • Prepare household for possible evacuation.
  • Close all exterior and interior doors, and windows.

    IF TOLD TO SHELTER IN-PLACE:

  • Turn off ventilation systems, fans, clothes dryer, heating-air conditioning; if possible close fireplace damper.
  • Close window curtains, shades, blinds.
  • Go to above ground room with fewest windows/doors.
  • Bring disaster supplies kit.
  • Wet down towels, jam in cracks under doors.
  • If possible, tape around doors, windows; block air vents using plastic sheeting/bags.
  • Stay inside until radio announces safety or to evacuate.

UPDATE: 1:50a.m. Central Time:

There has been a State of Emergency declared within Wake County. The name of the plant that is on fire is the Envirnomental Quality Co. which is located in the Western part of the town on Investment Blvd. The EQ facility is a hazardous waste material facility.

Firefighters and other emergency crews still have not been able to get close to the fire at all however, there are no visible flames at this time – contrary to flames earlier leaping 150-200 ft. above the site. They will not treat this fire with water or foam, due to the chemicals involved. They have been advised by HazMat officials that it is best to let it burn out. Further assessment will be made at sun-up.

Many people have gone to emergency rooms with severe respiratory difficulties. There is no word on exactly how many have been injured at this time, but it was reported that their medical problems are severe.

Officials are warning people to stay away from the fire, and if they see the smoke cloud they are literally being warned to run away from it. They are warning people to be no closer than 1 mile away from this fire. One of the officials being interviewed right now referred to people trying to get close to the fire, and the town manager literally said, if you are going to go close to write your name on your forehead, and the name of the next of kin, because you are either going to end up extremely ill or be arrested “no questions asked.”

They have not been able to attack this fire at all due to the hazardous chemicals. A civil air patrol flight did go over the building but they reported the ceiling was so low that they could not get an accurate view of the situation. The ceiling has reportedly collapsed and it will make it considerably more difficult to get a handle on this situation.

SCHOOL INFO: All bus routes originating in Apex, NC have been cancelled. Many schools in and around Apex are being used as shelters and/or have had classes cancelled for Friday.

A new article has been posted with more information at Charlotte.com: “Hazardous Gas, Fire Lead to Evacuations in Apex

ORIGINAL POSTING:

There is currently a fire burning out of control and explosions that have released several large clouds of Chlorine Gas into the air. Reportedly a leak at the EQ North Carolina plant sent the clouds into the air around 9 p.m. last night (10/05). Then a fire broke out followed by several explosions.

Apex, North Carolina Town Manager Bruce Radford has stated that, “This is the worst possible hazardous materials incident you could have.”

The firefighters and HazMat officials have not been able to get close to the fire at all due to the explosions and chemicals.

A lot of the town has been evacuated into shelters at this point, and the Red Cross is reportedly on the way. The 9-11 center is reportedly closed down, and firefighters can’t get near the fire.

About 12 people have reportedly shown up at the Rex Hospital Emergency Room in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Classes at all Apex schools have cancelled for tomorrow.

An eye is being kept on the weather as well, because even though rain could help get the fire under control, the chlorine gas would then be brought into the ground and could contaminate the area’s watershed…


WRAL.com reported that this same plant was fined $32,000 by the NC State Environmental officials back in March of this year due to failing to minimize the possibility of a release of hazardous waste-materials or implement a contingency plan for a possible release.

There is a live feed available for information from the WRAL Website:
http://www.wral.com/video/10012712/detail.html
[They have just been told that their live crew must now move again because of increased areas of evacuation at this point. They had been broadcasting from a shelter location, so presumably that shelter will now need to be evacuated. They reported they were taking a break and would be back on shortly but the site has remained quiet for several minutes now… – 1:00 a.m. Central Time]

Here is the link to the article posted at the WRAL-TV website:
Apex Plant Fire, Explosions Lead to Evacuations” –
http://www.wral.com/news/10012555/detail.html

Prayers for all people dealing with this situation and affected by it. It is truly a very serious situation…

Special Thanks to Howlin at FreeRepublic.com for posting this information at the Free Republic website.

As always, I will update this post as more information becomes available. At this point the situation is still very volatile and can change any minute. It is an extremely unsafe situation not only for responding agencies, but for the general public in the area as well.

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2 Responses to “~ SPECIAL REPORT: Extremely Dangerous Chemical Fire in Apex, N.C. – Evacuations, fire out of control, emissions of Chlorine Gas – UPDATED”

  1. Worries about the effect of this accident on the local watershed are valid. Fortunately, public officials have acted fast and seem to be doing a stellar job:

    http://thearticlewriter.com/blog/2006/10/06/just-miles-from-disaster/

  2. I agree, Matt. It seems the officials handling this are doing the best job they possibly can given the situation. Hopefully the impact will be minimal.

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