SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. – An investigation was underway into a Wednsday morning chemical leak at the Clearon plant in that produces pool chemicals.
The alarm sounded at the plant, which is located on U.S. Route 60, around 8:25 a.m. C.W. Sigman, Kanawha County’s deputy emergency manager, called the leak a “burp” of chlorinated dry bleach.
“When we got off the MacCorkle Avenue exit you could see just a little cloud moving down river. Here at the plant it looked pretty clear,” Sigman said.
Clearon facility manager Scott Johnson said the company could not immediately confirm how much of the chemical was released into the air, but employees worked quickly to contain it.
“All employees were accounted for at the beginning of this incident and all are safe,” Johnson said.
A shelter-in-place alert was issued for South Charleston, Dunbar and North Charleston soon after the alarm.
“Emergency management and Clearon folks went down to the lower end of the city limits and Dunbar area and tried to assess the situation. The plant folks checked [the air], couldn’t find anything on our monitors. They had the meters to check it,” said Sigman. “They could smell a minor amount of chlorine but nothing significant.”
That cloud soon dispersed and the odor was gone but the shelter in place wasn’t lifted until shortly after 10 a.m.
Sigmon said Clearon employees and emergency responders worked alongside each other to flush the chemical.
“It’s plant personnel and South Charleston/Dunbar firefighters working as one, the way it should be,” the deputy director said.
Johnson said the next phase is finding what caused the leak.
“We’re doing a complete investigation of the incident to find out what happened, where and how we can address it,” said Johnson, noting that an OSHA investigator was brought onsite.
Though Johnson praised response from the county’s team, he said there was one glitch involving the alarm extending beyond its intended area.
“That shelter-in-place was originally identified for the local community,” he said. “My understanding is it went out to the entire county and that’s one of the things that we’ll have to work on further with that system.”
The Clearon plant, which employs 118 workers, was on a routine maintenance shutdown at the time of the incident.