Polluting Warehouse Fire Burning PLASTICS in Parkersburg, WV

by Duane Nichols on October 28, 2017

Remains of IEI Warehouse as PLASTICS burn in Ohio River valley

A Fire Has Been Burning For Days At A West Virginia Plastics Warehouse — And the EPA has been silent

From an Article by Chris D’Angelo, Huffington Post News, October 26, 2017

WASHINGTON, WV — A fire continued to smolder at a plastics warehouse in Parkersburg, West Virginia, on Thursday evening, nearly six days after it erupted. Local officials have yet to pinpoint what types of chemicals and materials went up in the flames.

The 420,000-square-foot facility, formerly the Ames Tool Plant, is owned by Intercontinental Export Import Inc. and was being used to store various plastics and other items, according to state officials. The building caught fire early Saturday morning, and firefighters have been working to put it out ever since.

The state’s Department of Environmental Protection on Thursday ordered the owner of the facility to “immediately” provide a detailed inventory of all materials that had been stored there, as well as at its other facilities.

The 27-page order details numerous violations at the warehouse in recent years. In 2008, two volunteer firefighters warned in a report about the potential for a fire at the facility, saying they had “extreme concerns,” the Charleston Gazette-Mail reported Thursday.

State officials say air samples have detected pollutants “at levels comparable to or lower than what is typically seen in urban areas.” “We have done multiple, multiple, multiple testings of the air and all. So far, the multiple testings are OK,” Republican Gov. Jim Justice said at a news conference Tuesday.

Local residents, however, are concerned about potential threats to their health.

David Wright told HuffPost that “the smell of burnt plastic comes and goes with the wind.” And like his neighbors, he’s worried about what may have made it into the air. “Now that it’s died down a little bit,” he said of the blaze, “I wonder who is going to pay for all the firefighting efforts.”

Jessica Scritchfield Wooten, a medical field employee who had a baby in Parkersburg while the warehouse was burning, said the stench was “awful.” “The air was so bad we had to open our door to ventilate the smell out of our [hospital] room,” she wrote via Facebook.

On Monday, Justice declared a state of emergency in response to the inferno. And at a news conference the following day, he said he was concerned about potential long-term pollution. “We need all the king’s horses and all the king’s men — the experts from the federal government,” in case they might know something that state officials have missed, he said.

It is unclear what role, if any, the federal Environmental Protection Agency has had in the response. As of Thursday evening, the agency had not put out a public statement on the situation. According to state officials, however, the EPA is involved in ongoing air quality monitoring.

The EPA and Intercontinental Export Import did not respond to HuffPost’s requests for comment Thursday. See a survey video of this fire here.

Eric Engle, who lives just north of town and is chairman of Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action, said area schools have been closed all week. State workers have been told to stay home. And residents of Parkersburg and the surrounding counties are anxiously awaiting answers, he said.

“The majority of the people I know have left town,” many to stay with family and friends away from the smoke, he said.

On Thursday, the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department warned people to “avoid contact with the smoke and remain indoors if possible with windows and doors closed until the smell is no longer detectable.”

Parkersburg, whose population is about 31,000, is no stranger to industrial pollution. The town was the focus of a lengthy 2015 piece in HuffPost Highline.

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Poole Digital Updates October 28, 2017 at 5:53 pm

Parkersburg Warehouse Fire “90 Percent” Extinguished

From the Updates of Craig Poole, WOWK News, October 27, 2017

### State of Emergency Declared Due to Ames Plant Industrial Fire in Parkersburg

See the Video showing the early activities to limit this fire here

UPDATE: October 27, 2017

PARKERSBURG, W.Va. – West Virginia emergency officials say a warehouse fire that began last week is nearly out.

Lubeck Fire Chief Mark Stewart estimates that the fire in South Parkersburg is “90 percent” extinguished from ongoing efforts by firefighters.

The goal is to finish overnight Friday and Saturday, then monitor it for up to two days for possible flare-ups.

The 420,000-foot (130,000-meter) warehouse property where the fire broke out Saturday is owned by Columbia, Maryland-based Intercontinental Export Import Inc., which says on its website that it buys and sells an array of recycled plastics worldwide.

The Department of Environmental Protection has been measuring air quality around the site and was expected to post more results later.

The DEP ordered the company to provide a detailed inventory and properly dispose of debris.


UPDATE: October 26, 2017

PARKERSBURG, W.Va. (AP) – West Virginia environmental officials have ordered the Maryland company that owns an industrial warehouse in Parkersburg to detail materials that have burned there since Saturday and spell out plans for disposing of them properly.

The Department of Environmental Protection tells Intercontinental Export Import Inc. to immediately provide the inventory and within 10 days submit plans for complying with its environmental permits, including proof of proper disposal.

The DEP also has ordered detailed inventories at other sites owned by associated companies and payment of a $60,622 penalty under a previous settlement.

The 420,000-foot (130,000-meter) warehouse property is owned by Intercontinental based in Columbia, which says it buys and sells an array of recycled plastics worldwide.

A company representative, Somil Desai, says they’ve been working on site with local officials.

Source: http://www.wvillustrated.com/story/36649951/parkersburg-warehouse-fire-90-percent-extinguished


EMA Commentary October 30, 2017 at 12:38 am

Ohio Valley EMA Officials say Fire Risk is Always Present

ARTICLE and Photo by Casey Junkins, Wheeling Intelligencer, October 29, 2017

PHOTO — The Blue Racer Midstream Natrium plant in Marshall County is one of several large facilities throughout the Upper Ohio Valley with volatile natural gas on site. A 2013 blast at the site sent residents of the nearby Kent area scurrying.

WHEELING –After nearly a decade of watching the Marcellus and Utica shale industry grow, emergency management officials know natural gas drilling creates risk of fires, explosions, leaks, traffic accidents and other potential problems.

Also, in an area replete with buildings left behind by the steel, aluminum, glass and chemical industries and others, officials said it is virtually impossible to prevent all accidents. Still, they do not foresee a catastrophic event similar in nature to the massive fire at the former shovel plant near Parkersburg.

“We don’t have a huge facility that is just used for storage like the one in Parkersburg,” Marshall County Emergency Management Director Tom Hart said. “But we do have a lot of old factories and industrial sites up and down the (Ohio River). With any of those facilities, there is always the potential for problems.”

“That was a storage facility with a huge fire load,” Vargo, director of the Ohio County Emergency Management Agency, said of the Parkersburg factory. “Any building with that much combustible material in it can be a hazard.”

Also discussing the matter were Wheeling Fire Department Assistant Chief Paul Harto and Wheeling City Councilman Dave Palmer, who worked as an inspector with the city’s fire department for several years before his retirement.

“I don’t know of any massive storage areas like that in the city,” Harto said. “Most of the old Blaw-Knox and LaBelle plants have been torn down and removed.”

Decades ago, the East Wheeling Blaw-Knox site and the Labelle Cut Nail Plant in South Wheeling provided plenty of manufacturing jobs for local residents, but the buildings eventually fell into decay once the owners closed the facilities. Much of the Blaw-Knox site has seen remediation, while the nail plant has been replaced with the Labelle Greene housing complex.

All agreed that removing an old structure from a site reduces the risk of problems in the area, particularly if that building is going to be left unattended part of the time. However, Palmer said companies leaving a site can result in trouble because they do not always tell officials what they are doing.

“You never know what is left behind when a company goes out of business. You always assume the worst,” Palmer said. “You’ve got buildings where people do not always report what is stored in there.”

Harto mentioned a warehouse on River Road between North Wheeling and Warwood filled with tires. “We’re aware of it. It is protected with sprinklers,” he said of the warehouse.

Palmer said there are “hazardous materials inside many buildings.” “There are places of concern, but I’m not sure there is anything like what they’re seeing in Parkersburg,” Palmer added.

Within Wheeling city limits, Vargo said there are some industrial and commercial buildings that present hazards. For example, a hardware store that contains wood, paint and chemicals could create a massive fire under certain conditions.

“It’s all about the contents of the building,” he said. “The Wheeling Fire Department works very hard to make sure these buildings are as safe as they can possibly be.”

Outside the city limits, Vargo said the West Virginia State Fire Marshal’s Office inspects buildings at The Highlands. With all structures at the hilltop development being less than 15 years old, they are much more up to date with modern fire and building code regulations than are some of those found in Wheeling, however.

In recent years, Vargo and Hart have spent much of their time preparing for problems associated with the burgeoning oil and natural gas industry. In June 2010, drillers working near Moundsville struck a pocket of methane, leading to an explosion and fire that burned for several days.

In September 2013, a blast at the Blue Racer Midstream processing plant along W.Va. Route 2 sent residents of the nearby Kent community scrambling for cover.

Just one month later, a pipeline rupture near Valley Grove allowed 6,000 gallons of water and drilling mud to devastate a family’s home, while the pollutants killed some aquatic life upon entering Wheeling Creek.

In January 2015, an ethane pipeline blew up in Brooke County, creating a ball of flames that could be seen for several miles.

Although the accidents have not been as prevalent since then, Hart and Vargo said the risk will increase as the level of drilling, pipelining and processing once again ramps up.

“Right now, we are seeing them return to the pads. They are not building new pads, but they are building additional wells at the pads,” Vargo said.

Hart works in a county featuring not only drilling and fracking, but billions of dollars worth of processing infrastructure at sites operated by Blue Racer, Williams Energy and MarkWest Energy.

“Most of the companies have been very helpful,” he said in training volunteer firefighters how to address issues at industry sites. “But, each incident is different. They’re not all going to be the same.”

Hart said another issue in Marshall County is some are using open fields or old industrial sites as “lay-down yards.” This involves a company potentially leaving dozens of machines at a site, for example. “We have companies and subcontractors that are storing equipment and material used in the oil and gas industry. Some of the places they’re storing weren’t meant for that,” Hart said.

Overall, Hart said the situation at Parkersburg provides those in West Virginia a chance to learn how to improve in the area of fire and pollution prevention. “We are following the situation down there closely to see how it turns out. Once the incident concludes, we will probably be able to learn a great deal from it,” Hart said.

Source: http://www.theintelligencer.net/news/top-headlines/2017/10/ohio-valley-ema-officials-fire-risk-always-present/


MetroNews Update October 30, 2017 at 11:28 am

After more than a week, Parkersburg fire is finally out

A warehouse fire took more than a week to fight in Parkersburg.

From an Article by Brad McElhinny, WV MetroNews, October 29, 2017

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — After burning for eight days, a warehouse fire in Parkersburg has finally been extinguished.

Lubeck Fire Chief Mark Stewart, who served as the incident commander, made the declaration that was passed along to media by the state Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety.

The remains of the fire at the warehouse owned by International Export Import were extinguished about noon today.
Now a 36- to 48-hour cool-down phase has begun. Firefighters have stopped putting water on the site to check for flare-ups.

A consulting company specializing in hazmat situations, SPSI, remains on-scene to assist. Air quality monitoring continues as well.

School was out in Wood County all week. Plans called for school to reopen Monday.

The 420,000 square feet of property, which was storing recyclable plastics for a small business, caught fire early last Saturday morning and had been burning ever since, sending a plume of smoke billowing over the city and across the Ohio border.

On Thursday, The DEP issued an order to Intercontinental Export Import, Inc., demanding immediate information about what materials were stored on the property. DEP is also demanding to know how IEI plans to properly dispose of the material.

Source: http://wvmetronews.com/2017/10/29/after-more-than-a-week-parkersburg-fire-is-declared-out/


NOTES: Some 39 fire companies responded with 275 fire fighters. They used 65 million gallons of water, a great deal of which became polluted runoff from the site.

Infra-red survey meters were used to locate hot spots during the final stages of fire fighting.

The US EPA is to supervise the site cleanup including the remove the thousands of tons of plastic muck, aka smuck or smush.


Exxon Fire Report November 2, 2017 at 10:02 am

Exxon Refinery Catches Fire Day After Government Settles Over Pollution From Other Gulf Plants

By Julie Dermansky, DeSmogBlog.com, November 1, 2017

Early morning skies Wednesday in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, were alight from a fire that started around 2:30 a.m. at an ExxonMobil refinery. The blaze, though contained before the sun came up, is a reminder to the surrounding community of yet another danger of living next to refineries and chemical plants.

Exxon’s refinery is located along the stretch of Mississippi River between Baton Rouge and New Orleans known as “Cancer Alley” due to the high number of chemical plants and refineries — and illnesses possibly connected to emissions — along the river’s banks.

Exxon issued a statement to CBS affiliate WAFB while the fire smoldered, saying the community was not impacted by emissions from the refinery fire and that air quality readings were “below detectable limits.”

Mary Lee Orr, executive director of The Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN), questions the possibility of making such a determination so fast. Her group has been working with Cancer Alley communities, helping to reduce their exposure to pollution from the area’s oil and petrochemical industry.

Exxon’s Baton Rouge refinery is adjacent to one of the company’s eight facilities named in a settlement reached with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) and announced October 31.

Last year LEAN filed a lawsuit against an Exxon chemical facility in Baton Rouge, next to the refinery that caught on fire Wednesday. That suit alleges the facility has been violating the Clean Air Act by failing to report pollution releases correctly. Lisa Jordan, director of Tulane University’s Environmental Legal Clinic and representing LEAN in this case, said it is too early to say how the recent agreement between the federal government and Exxon will impact their own case. Jordan said LEAN’s case encompasses a broader range of issues than those in the one recently settled.

According to the DOJ, the settlement “resolves allegations that ExxonMobil violated the Clean Air Act by failing to properly operate and monitor industrial flares at their petrochemical facilities, which resulted in excess emissions of harmful air pollution.”

It requires Exxon to install and operate air pollution control and monitoring technology to reduce air pollution from 26 industrial flares at five facilities in Texas and three in Louisiana, at a cost of about $300 million. In addition, the company must pay a civil penalty of $2.5 million.

Some environmental groups have described the fines as a slap on the wrist, but LEAN’S technical adviser Wilma Subra believes the settlement is substantial. “The amount of money to be spent on air pollution improvements is a positive step in the right direction,” she told me.

However, Subra is concerned that the air pollution monitoring devices in the agreement will only monitor benzene, which is known to cause cancer. In her view, Exxon should be required to monitor a whole host of other potentially harmful chemicals it is emitting.

The instances of pollution cited in the recently settled suit do not include emissions from any of Exxon’s Texas facilities affected by Hurricane Harvey. Subra pointed out that the pollution incidents at Texas refineries and chemical facilities following the hurricane show that industry has no method for controlling pollution when hurricanes hit, something she hopes industry will change soon.

Exxon’s Baytown, Texas, operation was among the eight industrial facilities included in the recent settlement. It was also one of the plants that reported pollution releases due to Hurricane Harvey. In this case, the refinery’s roof sank due to the storm’s heavy rains, which resulted in the release of hazardous gases — including volatile organic compounds and benzene above permitted levels, according to the New York Times.

Orr also sees the agreement between Exxon and the Trump administration as a positive step toward protecting Cancer Alley communities. But “sadly, in the short term, the agreement won’t help the community,” she told me. “It will take time to implement the new pollution reduction devices.”

And though EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt stated that “this agreement shows, EPA is dedicated to partnering with states to address critical environmental issues and improving compliance in the regulated community to prevent future violations of the law,” the agency under Trump has been racing to undo its previous work. Recently Pruitt announced a measure to repeal former President Barack Obama’s EPA policy to curb greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, a plan Trump’s EPA has concluded would have substantial health benefits.

Furthermore, a list of potential names for the agency’s Science Advisory Board and Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee includes a sizable increase in industry representatives and consultants, as reported by the Intercept. On that list are two scientists who have worked for Exxon, indicating the oil and gas giant could have greater influence over EPA science and policies in the future.

Source: https://www.desmogblog.com/2017/11/01/exxon-refinery-fire-epa-pollution-gulf-louisiana


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