Chemical Reaction Stabilized at Zeon Plant

UPDATE 3:22 p.m.: Diane Bagby of Emergency Management says Code Red alerts went out twice this morning. But they only went to people living within one mile of the plant who were signed up to receive “general alerts,” and not just weather. She says the first alert went out at 8:36 a.m. to 198 people, and the second follow up to 10:59 a.m. to 201 people, and it was just meant to alert people who might be close enough to hear sirens that there was no immediate danger.

UPDATE 11:45 a.m.: Zeon Manfacturing Support Manager Bill Simpson says the two chemicals were mixed accidentally, and as they decompose, they create hydrogen sulfite. Hydrogen sulfite poses an inhalation risk, which is why plant employees were evacuated.

Simpson says the reaction is now stabilized, and the company and emergency workers are waiting for it to end.

“We’re in unfamiliar territory here,” he said. “These [chemicals] are not supposed to be mixed together. We feel we have it mitigated at this point. For all practical purposes, we’re on the downhill side but we have not yet cleared it.”

Simpson says air monitors outside the building never recorded any hydrogen sulfite, which means there was no danger to the neighborhoods near Rubbertown. The two workers who were hospitalized weren't exposed to hydrogen sulfite, but suffered from heat exhaustion and dehydration.

Bells Lane is now open to traffic.

UPDATE: 11:19 a.m.: According to MetroSafe, two Zeon workers have been transported to the hospital for heat-related illnesses.

UPDATE 11:00 a.m.: The chemical reaction was caused by the inadvertent mixture of 11 gallons of two chemicals– Mercaptan and peroxide–at 8:14 this morning.

MetroSafe spokesman Vince Luney says the chemicals are contained in a vessel, and there's no danger to the public. He said the Code Red warning was sent out shortly after the reaction this morning to ZIP codes near the plant. But community activist Eboni Cochran–who lives less than two miles from the plant and in the same ZIP code–says she didn't receive a call, even though she is signed up for the service.

Original story: The Zeon Chemical plant in Rubbertown was evacuated this morning after a unplanned chemical reaction.

Firefighters are on the scene, as well as Hazmat crews, emergency services personnel, the health department and the Metropolitan Sewer District. A MetroSafe spokesman says there have been no reported injuries, and there's no danger to nearby residents. He says a Code Red alert was sent out this morning to update the plant's neighbors, but no evacuations have been ordered for those nearby.

Officials will speak about the chemical reaction at 10:50am.

Erica Peterson

Erica Peterson reports on energy and the environment for WFPL.

@ericampeterson

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