News 12 at 11, September 27, 2007
FAIRFAX, S.C.-- A major clean up effort and now an investigation underway in Allendale County after a huge chemical spill at Grant Forests Products Plant in Fairfax. The plant had to shut down production temporarily near the site of the spill while clean up efforts began.
It's the largest chemical spill the plant has had since it opened a year ago.
About 100 employees had to be evacuated from the plant after four to six thousand gallons of Ammonium Hydroxide were spilled around lunchtime.
DHEC tells News 12 crews were filling up an external tank outside the plant at the time of the chemical spill.
Grant Forest Products is a wood processing company and a spokesperson for the company says the chemical is not used during their production process.
In this case, the Ammonium Hydroxide was being used as part of their clean air production at the plant which is a step the federal government mandates the plant take to prevent air pollution.
DHEC says the environment was not threatened because the liquid was contained by a secondary containment area, but the plant vows to get to the bottom of the issue. "A spill is never normal and it should never happen and there was a procedure, and there could be a procedure that was not followed and that's why we have the investigation. We'll find out what the problem was." says Van Chatraw, who is the Director of Business Development for Grant Forests Products.
DHEC says Air Gas, the company that manufactures the Ammonium Hydroxide was in charge of the clean up effort, an effort that lasted hours, well into the night.
Ammonia Hydroxide has some serious health effects, if you breathe it, the vapors can irritate your respiratory tract. Higher concentrations can cause burns, and even death.