TOPEKA, KS — Officials continue to investigate the cause of an explosion and fire that resulted in the release of chemicals from a chemical plant that was the focus of a 2009 settlement with a competitor over alleged violations of the federal Clean Air Act.
State and federal officials told The Lawrence Journal-World on Friday that they're investigating the cause of the Tuesday explosion and fire at the Airosol Company chemical plant in Neodesha. The plant manufactures and packages aerosol, liquid and other specialty chemicals.
The blast injured at least one employee and forced a number of area water suppliers to temporarily shut off water intake from the Fall River and Verdigris River because of contamination.
Officials have identified a number of chemicals that were released into a nearby drainage ditch when firefighters responding to the blast sprayed water to put out the fire, Kansas Department of Health and Environment spokesman Ashton Rucker said. But he said he could not verify what those chemicals were and said officials were still conducting tests to identify additional chemicals that may have been released.
Rucker also said KDHE and the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism have been monitoring the area for other possible impacts. So far, he said, there had not been any obvious threats to wildlife and habitat.
Steve Larson, a spokesman for the Kansas Department of Emergency Management, said that as of Friday afternoon, water customers in Independence and the nearby town of Sycamore were given an all-clear notice that they could resume using their public water. He said the warnings for Neodesha and Coffeyville had been downgraded to a "boil-water" advisory.
In 2009, the Airosol settled a lawsuit from a competitor accusing Airosol of violating the federal Clean Air Act by using ozone-depleting chemicals known a chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, as a propellant in its aerosol cans after they had been banned, according to the newspaper.
Court records show the settlement included Airosol paying a $10,000 fine, plus about $140,000 for the competitor's attorney fees.