By BRETT DUNLAP
The Parkersburg News and Sentinel
PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — Air quality tests are not finding significant pollutants in the air following the fire at the Intercontinental Export-Import Plastics warehouse on Old Camden Avenue.
Officials still do not know what was stored at the Wood County facility.
Officials with Center for Toxicology and Environmental Health, L.L.C. (CTEH), the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection and the West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety held a press conference Wednesday to discuss air quality tests being conducted around the area.
The IEI warehouse, known locally as the former Ames shovel plant, caught fire about 12:30 a.m. Saturday. Plastics were stored in the building, but officials still do not have a detailed account of items which may have been burned up in the fire.
Paul Nony, toxicologist with CTEH, said they have been in the area since Monday doing air quality monitoring in addition to what the WVDEP has been doing. CTEH is a science-based environmental consulting firm established to provide toxicology and human health consulting services to the public and private sectors.
They go out and find the levels of contaminants that could be in the air, see how those compare to those that would pose a potential health hazard to the community and then report that data for the understanding of what the impacts are in the community, Nony said.
”We have been continuously monitoring the air in areas around the plant and into the community since Monday afternoon,” he said. ”That monitoring has continually shown a continued decrease in the levels of fire/smoke components.
”We have not only been looking for the particulate matter that has been in the smoke, but also for some of the gases and chemicals that come out of any kind of fire, whether it be a plastics plant or a campfire or a wildfire. A lot of the same kind of chemicals that can pose a hazard to people can be present.”
Nony said the levels were low to begin with.
They have over 20 monitoring sites throughout the community in a 360-degree perimeter around the source so regardless of where the winds are, they can receive regular readings. Monitoring is going on throughout the day 24/7 with updates on the hour.
They deployed air sampling methods where they are taking samples of air and having them tested in a laboratory.
The team doing the monitoring has found decreasing levels of the particulate matter in the air since starting on Monday, Nony said.
”We have found very low or non-detectable levels of the other chemicals that could be in the smoke out in the community,” he said.
Nony said they have no results for the area now around the plant as fire fighting efforts are still underway and could impact their results.
They are continuing to see issues resulting from odors from around the plant that people can smell, but those smells are not at a toxic level, he said.
”We have been careful to document those odors,” Nony said. ”We are listening to the questions coming in from the community through the EOC.
”We will be working with the community to address those and to understand that the places where there may be odors, but not levels of chemicals that would cause a health hazard.”
Summaries of findings will be made public.
Nony said the real danger comes from long-term exposure. They are comparing the particulate matter levels to wildfire guidelines.
”Wildfires are very similar to what we see here,” Nony said. ”Wildfires consume homes and businesses that have a lot of the same materials you would find in this plant fire.”
Through their monitoring efforts they want to know where the chemicals are and are not.
As the levels are monitored over time, the levels have been coming down consistently over the last few days as progress has been made to bring the fire under control, he said.
Lawrence Messina, director of communications for West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety, said first responders were given a thick binder containing multiple SDSs (Safety Data Sheet, previously called a Material Safety Data Sheet or MSDS), each for a different chemical, chemical compound or mixture.
”As explained, the volume of SDSs was not current,” he said.
Messina said officials believe paperwork which would have given a more accurate account of what was stored in the building likely was lost in the fire.
”The goal is to reconstruct shipping records to ascertain what should have been on-site, and then check the binder for the relevant SDS,” he said.
As far as updates on air quality findings, Messina said those would be shared through the Wood County 911 Facebook page.
Wood County Commission President Blair Couch said efforts still continue at the scene to put the fire out.
”They have had flare-ups and they have had people throwing water on this thing all night long,” he said. ”Progress is being made. It has been a long week. The firemen are tired, but the effort continues.”
The Wood County Courthouse and all county offices, including Wood County Magistrate Court and the Wood County Circuit Courts, will be open regular hours today, officials said.
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