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Axiall Plant Chemical Leak Causes Evacuations

By Staff | Aug 27, 2016

NEW MARTINSVILLE – A chlorine leak this morning at the Axiall plant in southern Marshall County is now under control, emergency officials said.

The leak was first reported around 8:45 a.m. today, when Marshall County 911 said a chemical cloud from the plant was heading south.

“Axiall and the (West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection) tested the air quality in the area and determined it to be safe,” a Marshall County dispatcher said just after 4:30 p.m.

Axiall issued a press release that said a rail tanker car loaded with liquid chlorine developed a leak inside the company’s Natrium chemical facility near Proctor. The company said the rail car is no longer leaking.

The company said one of its employees and a contract worker were transported to area hospitals for treatment. Others were treated at an onsite health facility.

The company said hazmat crews evaluated the railcar and area of the leak that authorities estimated to be 26 miles long. The Natrium plant was evacuated and is currently shut down.

W.Va. 2 was shut down in that area for several hours and reopened at about 4:30 p.m. The Kent neighborhood was evacuated, but residents were told they could return to their homes. River traffic also was restricted, but now is flowing again.

Washington Lands’ Volunteer Fire Department and Washington Lands Elementary School are open for people needing some place to go during this event, according to Marshall County 911.

As a result of today’s incident, River High School’s 12:30 p.m. football game at Bellaire was canceled. Magnolia High School’s junior varsity football game against Shadyside was suspended with the score 16-2 in favor of Shadyside.

Also canceled was Magnolia’s girls’ soccer game at home against Steubenville Catholic Central High School.

This is not the first industrial accident to affect residents in Kent, as an explosion at the nearby Blue Racer Midstream natural gas processing plant in 2013 sent residents from their home.

In Wetzel County, the New Martinsville Bridge across the Ohio River was temporarily closed and residents in the Steelton area – Orchard Drive – and north were evacuated, according to emergency officials. Magnolia High School is being used as a shelter.

New Martinsville Police issued an alert around noon.

“If you smell chlorine, then it would be in your best interest to evacuate immediately rather than waiting on emergency services to come to you. We are working as fast as we can to notify everyone,” the NMPD’s alert said.

Ohio Route 7 between Clarington and Hannibal has been shut down as a precaution in Monroe County. Evacuation in that area is voluntary, according to the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department.

Marshall Emergency Management Agency said multiple first responders including Wetzel County fire departments are on scene.

After the chemical leak was reported, Sistersville Mayor Bill Rice and the city’s Water Plant Operator Craig Surface contacted the proper authorities to determine if there was any threat to the city’s water supply from the Ohio River.

“At this time, there is no imminent threat,” according to the city. “The chemicals were released into the air as opposed to directly into the water. While river traffic through the area has been closed, Sistersville’s water supply is unaffected as of this time.”