EPA: Smoke from Waxahachie fire pose no public health hazard

PoliticsU.S. Environmental Protection AgencyDiseases and IllnessesEnvironmental Politics

Fire officials believe the fire at the Magnablend plant may have started from mixing chemicals. The thick plume of black smoke rose high into the air quickly moving toward Dallas and Tarrant Counties.

"I saw all the smoke over near the school and I thought the school was on fire", said Waxahachie resident Greg Rife.

Not knowing what was in the smoke had a lot of people worried.

"I had a lady stop by and give me a gas mask and said they were evacuating", Rife said.

The Environmental Protection Agency arrived on the scene shortly after the explosion and began doing air quality tests.

The agency brought in an airplane with sensors to fly above the smoke plume to check for chemicals burning off the fire.

"They picked up a flammable and a hydrocarbon compound at extremely low levels. Levels way below any type of action levels to be concerned with from a public health stand point", said EPA Coordinator Nicolas Brescia.

People who live miles away but still in the path of the smoke were not evacuated. The EPA says it was not necessary.

"You're going to have smoke, it's a fire but our main concern is to see what's coming off close to it. if we don't see anything there, then we're not real concerned with 10, miles, 15 miles, 20 miles downwind", Brescia said.

But health officials say people with respiratory problems need to be careful.

"It can cause a lot of reactions like asthma type reactions and COPD exacerbations so it will affect your breathing", said Dr. Todd Aspegren at Baylor Hospital in Waxahachie.

Aspegren says he doesn't think the smoke will cause any long term health effects.

"Also you want to worry about your skin and things like that, washing it off if you get a lot of smoke exposure", he said.

The fire also resulted in a lot of chemical runoff on the ground. The EPA is monitoring that as well to ensure it’s contained.

 

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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