Harmless chemical released inside Wacker facility during weekend fire
The Bradley County fire chief and EMS director says a chemical was released during a fire at the Wacker Chemie Plant on Saturday, but it was harmless to residents.
The fire happened on the fourth floor of the plant’s wastewater treatment facility, a non-processing building on the site.
Chief Shawn Fairbanks says Wacker officials told him a chemical was released inside facility. Fairbanks says the chemical was harmless. Still, he says crews were monitoring the air quality the entire time they were at the scene.
“It's a waste from a byproduct that they make at Wacker. This is stuff that they clean before they're able to get rid of it,” Fairbanks said. “We had a zero parts per million reading of the air which means there were no harmful chemicals were in the air.”
Around 1:30 Saturday morning, Fire Chief Shawn Fairbanks and his team were called in to help with the fire.
“Once we arrived and saw that fire was spreading from one side of the building to the other, we at that time decided to call in some ladder trucks to be able to reach the fire on the fourth floor,” Fairbanks explained.
It's not clear what sparked the flames. Wacker says their crews are investigating, but Fairbanks says a manual error could have occurred.
“The waste that they are dealing with which is not harmful to the public is therefore able to ignite with a moisture to the air if a crust is broken on the seal and we don't know if that happened or not,” he explained. “You're hooking up your waste hoppers or tanks to the pipes that go through the facility so there could've been a malfunction there or something.”
A Nixle emergency alert from the county was not sent out notifying residents about the fire. It's up to EMS crews and the fire department to decide when the alerts are sent to the public. Fairbanks says because no one was in danger, they decided to hold off on sending one.
“We didn't feel that it was a need to alert the public for anything at that time of the morning and cause a panic that didn't need to be,” said Chief Fairbanks.
Channel 3 followed up with Wacker on Monday. We were referred to a statement the company sent on Saturday. We asked about the chemical released inside the plant, but have not heard back.
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