|PTC fumes incident
sparks county concern about HazMat response
Late call for
help could have spelled disaster, says Dunn
By DAVE HAMRICK
state's finest hazardous materials disaster
response team didn't swing into action until
hours after a release of potentially deadly
chemical gases recently, and Fayette County
commissioners are looking for ways to make sure
that doesn't happen again.
tragedy here is that we weren't asked to respond
on a timely basis, said Commissioner Greg
spoke up during last week's commission meeting,
responding to a story in the Nov. 3 edition of
The Citizen about an incident at Peachtree City's
Wilden Plastics industrial plant.
company is not a member of the county's Local
Emergency Planning Committee, a group composed of
industry representatives, experts from the
Department of Fire and Emergency Services and
hazardous materials experts from Peachtree City
and Fayetteville fire departments.
model for hazardous materials teams all over the
country, the committee conducts extensive
training with industry workers and emergency
workers from all county jurisdictions, so
everyone involved will know just what to do in an
since Wilden is not a participant, when a gaseous
emission sent six employees to the hospital Oct.
29, officials there didn't know to immediately
dial 911, where operators are trained to alert
the county's Hazardous Materials Team.
Fayette Community Hospital is a committee
participant, and when the Wilden employees showed
up to be treated for inhalation of the fumes,
Fayette's well-oiled plan was enacted.
responders from Fayetteville checked the hospital
for chemical contamination, and Peachtree City's
emergency workers rushed to the industrial plant
and, using high-technology monitors borrowed from
Photocircuits Inc. as part of the Fayette County
Resource Council, established that there was no
further danger to the surrounding community or
fortunate that the incident turned out that way,
said Dunn, but the delay in calling 911 could
have been disastrous. This could have been
a tremendous catastrophe for our community,
he said. We have probably the best system
there is, but we can't respond if we're not told
about the problem.
wondered whether there might be some way to force
all county industries to participate in the
emergency committee, but county attorney Bill
McNally said that's not possible. But ordinances
could be enacted to require specific responses in
case of spills or other problems, he said.
Jack Krakeel, director of the county Department
of Fire and Emergency Services, said he and Capt.
Pete Nelms, who heads up the Hazardous Materials
Team, will redouble their efforts to get all the
county's industries involved in the team, and
will look for other ways to increase the level of
Linda Wells suggested creating posters with
specific information for each industry, listing
potentially dangerous chemicals present in each
and instructing workers to dial 911 if any
if workers at a plant are trained in the proper
procedures, there's always turnover, she said,
and new workers might not have that training. The
posters would ensure that instructions are handy
when a problem occurs, she said.
said the department also is looking into
preparing information packets for new industries
coming to town, after Dunn noted that in the
Citizen article, a Wilden employee was quoted as
saying he didn't even know the HazMat Team
existed until the Oct. 29 incident.
good news, Krakeel said, is that everyone
involved responded quickly and properly once
notified of the Wilden problem. The
hospital did exactly what they were supposed to
do, he said, adding that Peachtree City and
Fayetteville personnel were lightning fast with
a good lesson that we need to continually
educate, not only the current participants [in
the team], but also educate every industry of how
important it is to become an active participant
in the process, he said.