Bradley County's Fire Chief meets with top Wacker officials
Local officials say chemicals are still being removed from Wacker Chemie plant in Charleston.
Local officials say chemicals are still being removed from Wacker Chemie plant in Charleston. The plant is shut down while cleanup is underway.
After some protesting and pressure from concerned citizens living in the area, Wacker officials sat down with local emergency management officials in a meeting Monday.
"The goal in the meeting and with Wacker is to see where they are at in the stage of getting the chemicals out of their facility," said Chief Shawn Fairbanks, Bradley County Fire Rescue.
It's been nearly two weeks since an explosion and chemical release at Wacker sent a dozen people to local hospitals and forced area residents to shelter in place.
Fairbanks says the air has since cleared but safety concerns haven't. He sat down with Wacker executives this week to get answers.
"In our meeting, we discussed the possibility of a town hall meeting to where the people in the community of Charleston can meet and talk with them and she seemed to be very receptive of that issue and possibility," said Fairbanks.
Fairbanks says this week Wacker officials educated his team on the chemicals used inside the plant and how to respond to another leak. He says Wacker has removed about 70 percent of the chemicals from the building damaged in the explosion.
"The public's at no danger of any of the chemicals being removed so everything is on track for that right now," said Fairbanks." They're moving it slowly and safely, so they're making headway with that."
Fairbanks says the plant, which employees about 650 people, is expected to be closed until the first of the year.
"We do have issues that we want to correct and we will be negotiating with Wacker to take care of some of those and they seem to be willing and listening to us at this time," said Fairbanks.
Emergency officials say installing a community-wide siren and air monitoring system is a top priority.
"We would like air monitoring to be done outside of their facility, so we know what's going into the community if anything," said Fairbanks. " Right now we would have to drive around and take air monitoring samples."
Lisa Mantooth, a Wacker spokesperson, released a statement to Channel 3 late Tuesday:
"Safety is our top priority along with the care and well-being of our employees and our community. Our commitment to safety remains our primary focus. Wacker had in place prior to the September 7th incident, an integrated emergency response plan involving the Bradley County Emergency Management Agency. We are very pleased with the cooperation and support and credit the plan for the safety of employees and the community."
- Lisa Mantooth, Wacker Communications and Executive Coordinator.
Mantooth tells Channel 3 external structural engineers have reinforced the damaged portions of the building where the incident occurred.
The cause of the explosion is still under investigation.