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Chemical disposal plant catches fire in Michigan

Posted on by SST

A fire broke out at the site of a notorious violator of regulations after a chemical reaction overheated structures located inside the facility.

Reported by Grand Rapids' NBC affiliate WOOD TV, the Drug & Laboratory Disposal Inc. facility, located at 331 Broasd Street in Plainwell, Mich., experienced a small fire around 3 p.m. on June 24 as employees conducted a chemical reaction intended to neutralize acid-based components. Evidence of a sprinkler or fire alarm system was not mentioned in reports. The situation, however, quickly devolved out of control.

Apparently, the reaction generated such intense heat, a nearby wooden staircase caught fire. Employees reported to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality that, in trying to snuff out the flames, a number of fire extinguisher tanks were dropped close to the fire – causing them to subsequently explode, according to Waste & Recycling News.

Despite extinguishing the fire by 5:30 p.m. that same day, hot spots in the wreckage rekindled a fire early Tuesday morning. Residents living nearby reported hearing 25 to 30 explosions and billowing smoke visible from 300 yards away. As a result, the residential area northeast of the facility was evacuated despite air-quality tests shows no abnormal results. 

All of the employees were able to evacuate the building and there have no reports of serious injuries. A number of firefighters, however, reported being overwhelmed by the heat of the blaze. The extent of the damage has not yet been determined.

Officials are especially concerned that rain could cause another fire as it mixed with water-reactive chemicals stored in the facility. The Young's Environmental Cleanup group, along with the Environmental Protection Agency met on Tuesday to assess the situation and determine a strategy to safely contain the chemicals.

Industrial Safety News brought to you by Safety Systems Technology, Inc., leaders in fire and gas detection systems.

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