Chemical leak starts fire on North Shore, injures one - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Chemical leak starts fire on North Shore, injures one

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) - A chemical fire injured one man and created quite a scare for hundreds of people on Chattanooga's North Shore Friday.

It happened just before 9 a.m. at JIT Chemicals on Manufacturers Road. Thousands of gallons of a caustic soda spilled out causing a reaction to a metal on the property, which sparked a fire. An environmental cleanup crew stayed on the scene for much of the day.

"I was awakened by the sirens," neighbor Ted Long said.

It was a scary scene for hundreds of residents living in the One North Shore condos as a fire broke out at the chemical plant next door.

"I came out and there's a tank with a spiral staircase on it. They were watering it down and it had water vapor coming off of it which means it was hot," Long said.

Chattanooga Fire officials say workers at JIT Chemicals were off-loading a material commonly known as lye from a barge when something went wrong.

"It's a 50-percent solution of sodium hydroxide that they were pumping into the storage tank. Evidently part of that escaped," Chattanooga Fire Department spokesperson Bruce Garner said.

An estimated two to three thousand gallons leaked onto the walls of a storage tank.

"The workers could tell there was some kind of a chemical reaction between the caustic material and the aluminum siding on the storage vessel," Garner said.

Flames broke out and the workers ran for help, but not before a 31-year-old employee came into contact with the compound. He was taken to the hospital and is expected to be ok.    

Emergency responders worked to keep the leakage in a dike area around the tank.

"The haz-mat team is working with technicians here with JIT Chemicals and they're basically trying to assess where to go as far as making sure the situation is totally safe," Garner said.

"Well I've always wondered what's next door and now I think I'm going to go over and try to find out," Long said.

Officials say the leak did not pose a health threat to the plant's neighbors because you have to be in much closer contact with the chemical to get burned.

"I really do think the fire department did a great response. I was watching them. They were taking very good precautions," Garner said.

Area businesses also say they're thankful the fire was put out in a matter of minutes. Manufacturers road was closed for hours, but re-opened to traffic around lunchtime. 

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