ELGIN, SC (WIS) – After a chemical leak at its Kershaw County facility on Thursday closed parts of the interstate for several hours and led to some evacuations, WeylChem US Inc. identified the chemical as a mixture. of nitric acid vapor and nitrogen oxides.
According to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, it is unlikely that anyone will suffer any health impacts from this accident.
“However, anyone with health concerns or questions is encouraged to speak to a health care practitioner,” DHEC said in a statement.
Kershaw County Firefighters said they first responded to a smoke call from Elgin’s WeylChem facility at around 6pm Thursday.
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Neither the Kershaw County Firefighters nor WeylChem explained what caused the leak.
DHEC said the incident commander in this situation, Kershaw County Fire Chief Will Glover, was “leading a comprehensive response to rapidly minimize offsite impacts from the release.”
In an interview with WIS on Thursday, Glover said firefighters used water cannons to suppress the vapors resulting from the leak.
Kershaw County firefighters ordered evacuation to a small number of homes southeast of the plant.
“Based on wind direction and things of that nature,” Glover said.
In a statement, DHEC said, “WeylChem is required to provide a completed internal investigation report to DHEC, which will help DHEC direct next steps as it continues to investigate this incident and determine if state regulations have been violated.” .
In 2013, the company paid a $ 500,000 fine for allegedly violating federal pollution laws, which included “the mismanagement of hazardous waste under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and South Carolina regulations and standards for emissions of hazardous air pollutants under the Clean Air Act “.
Additionally, WeylChem has received several consensus orders from DHEC since 2013.
DHEC’s Bureau of Land and Waste Management has issued two authorization orders to the company for hazardous waste matters. The first consent order was executed in December 2013 and included a $ 8,000 fine. The second was executed in March 2017 and included a $ 12,500 fine.
The company also received three consent orders from DHEC’s Bureau of Air Quality in the same time frame.
Two of these were for violations of South Carolina’s air pollution control regulations. The penalties in those cases were $ 8,330 and $ 12,960, respectively.
WIS contacted WeylChem for comment on the $ 500,000 fine and community concerns that its operations affected the safety and well-being of Kershaw County residents.
In response to these requests, the company sent WIS a statement that reads: “WeylChem respects the statements already made and will update as appropriate.”
David Keisler, who lives down the street from the facility, said he wished there were more communications about the incident with local residents.
He called the response “disorganized and unprofessional”.
“The initial reaction was that there was more concern for traffic control than for safety,” Keisler said.
Keisler said there are sometimes various smells emanating from the WeylChem facility and it can be frustrating to live this close to it.
“No one has ever warned us,” he said. “When we first moved here in ’99, the people who owned the plant were sending these monthly phone calls. “In an emergency, you will be told to do this, this, this.” But since the new owners arrived here, we’ve never had anything like it. “
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