Valdosta Chemical Plant Explosion Still Under Investigation [GALLERY]

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By: Eames Yates
October 16, 2013

Valdosta, GA - There's a new effort to find out what caused the Perma-Fix chemical fire in Valdosta.

Investigators are now trying to speak with employees who were in the plant when it exploded. The smoke from the blast on August 14th could be seen for miles. Three Perma-Fix employees were injured. The fire department says it was caused by a chemical reaction.

John Wisenbaker, Valdosta Fire Department: "We've been pretty thorough in our investigation. We tried not to leave any stone unturned and basically we're trying to, we would love to nail down exactly what chemicals mixed to cause the thing. We haven't been able to nail that down. And that's something we would like to do. Hopefully we can interview those two individuals that were working there and maybe they've got some insight on that."

Although the investigation is still open, it's unlikely the Valdosta Fire Department will file any charges. They're calling the explosion an accident.

Press Release: Perma-Fix Environmental Services, Inc.

Valdosta Fire Department officials continue investigating the cause of the August 14 chemical fire at PermaFix of South Georgia.

On August 19, investigators were able to conduct interviews with two key witnesses to learn more about the accident.

“The Valdosta Fire Department does not suspect any foul play,” said Valdosta Fire Chief J.D. Rice. “We want to gather additional information from the employees involved to shed light on what happened. After the interviews today, we should have an answer on the probable cause of the fire.”

Chief Rice met with Environmental Protection Agency and Georgia Environmental Protection Division officials at the PermaFix site on Monday to address public and environmental concerns. Although the Perma-Fix facility managed hazardous and non-hazardous industrial waste, no radioactive or nuclear products were processed through the facility. The EPD and EPA officials confirmed that everything that can be done is being done to monitor any effects of the chemical fire to local water, air and soil.

Soil and water tests have been conducted every day since the incident. None of the test results have shown any level of adverse environmental impact on our ground water and local water ways.

Atmospheric testing has also been conducted and results show no indication of levels that would be harmful to the public. Testing will continue through next week.

Chief Rice also confirmed with the environmental officials that the products used at PermaFix will not be disposed of in our county. Since very few facilities in Georgia are set up to handle hazardous waste—and Valdosta-Lowndes County is not one of them—the products will be taken offsite to an EPD-approved waste disposal site.

For more information, contact the city’s Public Information Office at (229) 259-3548.

By Eames Yates
August 15, 2013

Valdosta, GA - The Valdosta Fire Department says they think that a chemical reaction could have caused the fire at the Perma-Fix chemical disposal company. They do not suspect any foul play at this time.

Eyewitness said Chris Buescher said "you could tell the intensity of the fire was increasing because of the black smoke. The explosions you could hear immediately upon reaching the roadway. It sounded like someone hitting an empty five gallon bucket."

The fire that broke out Wednesday afternoon took roughly three hours to put out. Now that it's over investigators are going through debris and speaking with employees to find out what caused it.

Valdosta Fire Marshal John Wisenbaker said "the theory we got is that they possibly put something in there that reacted to something that was already in there. Because it was already a blend of mixed items, mixed chemicals and we think something might of reacted."

Out of the thirteen employees that were at the plant when the fire began three were injured. Two of which were transported by Life Flight helicopter after being badly burned.

Anne Smith is the Perma-Fix Director of Communications. She said "there were no fatalities and our primary concern is on the employees. Right now we have two that have been injured and they are in stable condition and at a local hospital."

Those two that were injured were taken to Shands Hospital in Gainesville. The investigation is still ongoing.

Press Release: Perma-Fix Environmental Services, Inc.

The company experienced a fire yesterday at its South Georgia facility. Our priority continues to be the health and safety of our employees.

All 13 employees are accounted for and two employees that were airlifted to a local hospital are in stable condition. We are obviously very concerned about these employees and will do everything we can to support them and their families.

The fire has been contained and we are grateful for the efforts and immediate action of the emergency responders. We are not aware of any further risk to employees or the public.

We are working closely with responders and local officials, and will be conducting a full investigation as soon as we can re-enter the facility.

We have a culture of safe, compliant operations. We take this matter very seriously and are sending in corporate resources from other facilities and departments to assist in recovery, investigation and cleanup of the site.

Press Release: City of Valdosta

The investigation into the cause of yesterday’s chemical fire continues today.

There is a media opportunity to interview VFD Fire Marshall John Wisenbaker at 1030 a.m. today on James P. Rodgers Drive, near the James P. Rodgers Circle intersection.

That will be the only update scheduled this morning until we have anything to report later in the day.

Please call me at (229) 251-4779 if I can assist you with anything else. Thank you for your patience as the investigation continues.

Associated Press Release

VALDOSTA, Ga. (AP) -- Authorities in south Georgia say fire crews were continuing to monitor the scene of a chemical explosion that rocked an industrial complex, injuring three people.

Valdosta city officials said in a statement that firefighters remained at the scene Wednesday night until an investigation could begin Thursday.

Officials said several agencies are evaluating the safety of the area. They include the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; the Georgia Environmental Protection Division; and the Lowndes County Emergency Management Agency Director.

Valdosta fire officials say more than 40 firefighters responded to the Wednesday afternoon blaze. Police say the fire and explosions appeared to be coming from a facility that processes hazardous and non-hazardous waste materials.

Valdosta Police Chief Brian Childress said the three people injured suffered burn injuries. Their conditions were not available.

Press Release: City of Valdosta

Valdosta fire fighters remain at the scene tonight of the chemical fire that occurred earlier today at 1612 James P. Rodgers Circle. Fire fighters are monitoring the scene until the investigation can begin in the morning. Representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Georgia Environmental Protection Division, as well as the Lowndes County Emergency Management Agency Director, are also on site assisting the VFD in evaluating the safety of the area and making sure the area is safe for people to return to work tomorrow.

James P. Rodgers Circle and a portion of James Rodgers Drive are currently still closed; however, James P. Rodgers Drive is expected to be open in the morning.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation. An update will be provided when more information is available.

Press Release: American Red Cross

Valdosta—The American Red Cross chapter of south Georgia was asked to be on-site following an explosion this afternoon at PermaFix Co. in an industrial park in Valdosta. The chapter has volunteers from four counties and the chapter’s Emergency Response Vehicle at the site.

The chapter’s chair of the board, Renee Parker, said volunteers will continue to be on duty as long as they are needed. Volunteers work under the supervision of the Disaster Services chair, Tommy Miller.

Press Release: Valdosta Fire Department

The City of Valdosta Fire Department responded to a chemical explosion on August 14 at PermaFix Environmental Services, located at 1622 James Rodgers Circle. The call came in at 2:22 p.m. and within minutes more than 40 firefighters and other first responders were on scene. The fire was under control by 4:30 p.m. with the assistance of the Lowndes County Fire Department and the Moody Air Force Base Fire Department. Also responding with aid were the Valdosta Police Department, Lowndes County Sheriff’s office, the Georgia State Patrol and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Due to the nature of the chemicals at the facility, the area was evacuated within a one-mile radius. At least three injuries have been reported, but no fatalities are known at this time.

The fire is under investigation. An update will be provided when more information is available.

Perma-Fix Statement

Ann Smith, Director of Communications, said “All we can confirm is that there was a fire at our Valdosta facility, and the Valdosta Fire Department has responded. We are concerned for the safety of our employees.”

Valdosta, GA - A 911 Call came in around 2:30 pm. The fire started at 1612 James Rodger Circle off of Madison Highway. WCTV doesn't know what caused the fire yet.

The company Perma-Fix is a chemical disposal company.

10 different chemicals are housed at the facility. There is a one mile evacuation around the facility. The fire is under control now but it is not out.

Ambulances were on the scene as well a life-flight helicopter. The helicopter picked up at least one person. We still don't know how many people are injured or the extent of their injuries.

WCTV will bring you more information as it becomes available.

Valdosta, GA - The Perma Fix plant in Valdosta handles hazardous and non-hazardous materials.

There is a one mile evacuation around the facility.

August 14, 2013

The Valdosta Fire Department reports the fire is under control but not completely out.

The fire started around 3pm Wednesday afternoon.

There are possible injuries.

Valdosta, GA - The Valdosta Fire Chief is reporting a large fire at Industrial Park on Gil Harbin Industrial Boulevard off Madison Hwy.

WCTV will bring you more information as it becomes available.

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