Chemical reaction may be cause of Valdosta plant explosion
This is what part of the plant looks like the day after the fire
VALDOSTA, GA (WALB) -
Valdosta Fire investigators believe a chemical reaction may have caused that huge fire at a chemical recycling plant in Valdosta Wednesday afternoon. The fire injured three people. Two of them remain hospitalized Thursday night.
Firefighters estimate about 75-percent of the Perma Fix Environmental Services plant is destroyed. Tonight Perma Fix officials are working to figure out where they'll go from here.
"Having this conversation with the plant manager, he's really unsure what the next step will be. They're stunned I guess is what I'd say," said Capt. John Wisenbaker, Valdosta Fire Marshal.
Officials say roughly 10 employees were in the plant when it exploded Wednesday afternoon. Charlie Curry and Stan Williams were airlifted to Shands Hospital in Florida. Perma-Fix reps are not releasing any information on the victims but say they are in stable condition.
"It's extremely unfortunate, we are very concerned about our employees and we're going to do everything we can to support them and their families," said Anne Smith, Perma-Fix Communications Director.
For the first time Thursday morning fire investigators entered the plant to start a preliminary investigation.
"Right now we're in the early stages of trying to find out what chemicals it was and right now we believe it might have been some kind of chemical reaction," said Wisenbaker.
Wisenbaker says they were most concerned about the large oil tanks from Georgia Petroleum catching on fire. They used water to keep the tanks cool and managed to keep the fire from spreading. "It was numerous explosions. You have 55 gallon drums exploding, I estimate probably a thousand of them probably exploded."
Wisenbaker says it was the largest explosion he's ever seen, but thankfully there were no fatalities.
The other injured employee, Jamey Mitchell, was treated at South Georgia Medical Center and released last night.
Fire investigators hope to have an exact cause of the explosion Friday.
Valdosta firefighters remained on the scene all night in case any hot spots flared up after explosions at the Per-Fix plant in Valdosta Wednesday.
They are conducting their investigation into the blaze now, and it appears that about three-fourths of the plant that recycles oil was destroyed, but the office next door is still intact.
We know three people were hurt, Charlie Curry, Stan Williams, and Jamey Mitchell. One of them was airlifted from the scene to Shands Hospital in Gainesville, Florida.
Another was airlifted there from South Georgia Medical Center. Jamey Mitchell was treated at SGMC and released.
Representatives from the EPA, Georgia EPD, Lowndes County EMA, and Valdosta Fire Department monitored the scene Wednesday night to determine if it's safe for people to return to work in the area Thursday.
Here is WALB's first main story of the plant fire from Wednesday-
The Red Cross says they are providing assistance to those in the area of a massive fire caused by an explosion inside an industrial park off Madison Highway in Valdosta.
The Valdosta Fire Chief reports three people were taken to the hospital with injuries from the blast. Their conditions were not immediately available. No fatalities have been reported.
Officials say they first received a call at 2:22 p.m. Wednesday to the Perma-Fix Environmental Services near Industrial Boulevard. Plumes of smoke and flames could be seen more than one hundred feet in the air.
City officials say more than 40 firefighters and other emergency crews initially responded to the scene.
Emergency crews from surrounding communities have been called to the scene and more volunteers are expected.
The Valdosta Fire Chief said the fire is under control but not out. Everyone one mile south of the facility has been evacuated from the area.
According to their website, Perma-Fix Environmental Services is a global provider of nuclear services and radioactive waste management solutions.
The Valdosta facility, Perma-Fix of South Georgia is a waste treatment facility that processes and disposes of hazardous and non-hazardous waste liquid, solids and sludges.
The facility outlines three treatment processes.
Liquid Fuel Blending - liquid waste with BTU content is treated through a liquid fuel blending system to produce a liquid material which can be used as a substitute fuel.
Solid Fuel Blending - solid waste with BTU content is treated through a solid fuel blending system to produce a solid material which can be used as a substitute fuel.
Distillation - wastes such as acetone, methylene chloride, mixed flammables and mixed chlorinated solvents are processed through the distillation system and returned to the generator for reuse, or remarketed to another user.
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