A fire has been raging at a recycling plant warehouse since 12:30 a.m. Saturday and officials still don’t have it under control.
The facility, located in Parkersburg, West Virginia, is owned by Intercontinental Export Import (IEI), a company that sells post-industrial recycled plastics and offers grinding, toll processing and storage for a wide range of products.
Officials don’t know what products are burning in the fire but a number of different chemicals and plastics products were likely on site. On Thursday, officials from the state’s Department of Environment (DEP) issued an Order of Compliance demanding that IEI disclose what materials were being stored on site and how they will be disposed of after the fire is contained.
It’s also still unclear what caused the fire.
In the absence of this information, conspiracy theories have begun to swirl online that the company is actually owned by DuPont — one of IEI’s customers — and that something nefarious is at play.
DuPont responded to the allegations in local media, saying the company “does not have any direct affiliation with the warehouse” but that “the warehouse was storing plastic materials, some of which were purchased from DuPont” by IEI.
Meanwhile, the state’s DEP has been testing the air around the fire with handheld monitors and focusing on the levels of carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, hydrogen sulfide, chlorine and ammonia. DEP officials said that so far the air quality has been at “moderate levels” but that a full report is forthcoming.
Local media have also uncovered a number of past safety violations at the site. About 10 years ago, two firefighters reportedly warned that the facility could be at risk for a major fire.
And while the DEP was investigating the site for water pollution compliance in February, the officials uncovered a range of safety issue. Specifically, the investigators found that a diesel spill had not been fully cleaned up, that there was “waste and pellets” scattered around the plant and that there were deteriorating storage drums sitting outside. Ultimately, the investigators concluded that the company’s operations were “unsatisfactory” and that its materials handling was “marginal.”
A nearby medical facility reported that it has seen dozens of patients with fire-related symptoms including respiratory problems, headaches, eye irritation and shortness of breath.
Although the fire has been shrinking, officials still don’t know when it’ll be fully extinguished.