No Threat From Chemical Fire

Tuesday, October 4, 2011 - 10:29am

Early tests show no lingering danger from massive chemical plant fire in Texas.

Firefighters are letting a massive fire that broke out Monday morning at a chemical plant in Waxahachie, Texas burn itself out.

The fire broke out at the Magnablend chemical plant at 10:35 a.m Monday.

Scott Pendery, company president and owner, said he had no idea how the blaze began.

He said he is launching an investigation as well as cooperating with others.

"While we're thankful there were no serious injuries or loss of life, we do recognize many people were inconvenienced by today's evacuations and other emergency activities, and we sincerely regret this was necessary," he said.

Environmental Protection Agency officials arrived mid-afternoon and began running tests on the quality of the air and water.

EPA Coordinator Nicolas Brescia said late Monday afternoon that initial air quality tests show "nothing significant" and said there is no immediate threat to the public.

"We have not seen any significant levels that would cause a public health concern, and that is offsite," he said.

Some higher levels were detected near the fire itself, but government experts described that as normal in such as massive fire.

Brescia said the EPA's ASPECT aircraft, essentially a flying lab, performed four high-altitude runs and detected flammable and a hydrocarbon compounds at extremely low levels.

"Both of those chemicals that they detected were at extremely low levels," he said.

But Brescia cautioned that ground-based air tests would continue and could yield different results.

The fire prompted evacuations of nearby schools and residences as explosions pushed flames and incredibly dark plumes of thick smoke high into the air.

People were allowed to return to their homes later Monday night.

The smoke, which was once so thick it cast a heavy shadow over northwest Waxahachie, began to thin out and dissipate as the fire died down in the mid-afternoon.

Lisa Wheeler, of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, said the plant deals with ammonia, sulfuric, hydrochloric, nitric and phosphoric acids and mixes them for fertilizer and agricultural products.

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