Martinsburg evacuations lifted after chemical leak at wastewater plant

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Almost 24 hours after it was enacted, the Martinsburg evacuation order has been lifted.

Evacuations spanned at least a half-mile radius Monday morning after a chemical mishap was reported at the Martinsburg wastewater treatment plant at 500 East John Street. Residents spent Monday into Tuesday in shelters and hotels. The shelters had to be re-located at least three times due to the spreading chemical ‘fog’ visible for several miles over the city.

According to a release from the Berkeley County Public Safety Office, the incident was due to an accidental chemical mixture of Sodium Hypochlorate and Ferric chloride during a transport.

“The situation is under control and the chemicals are contained within a tank, but the evacuation will be in place until further analysis can be completed to confirm the dispersal of the chemical, and that the area is safe to enter.

Please be aware that the emissions from the Sewage Treatment Plant should only result in a mild respiratory irritation. You should not experience delayed or long term effects. However, in the event of nausea and vomiting, you should seek immediate medical attention.”

– Berkeley County Public Safety

Governor Jim Justice ordered a partial activation of the West Virginia State Emergency Operations Center. Assisting agencies included the state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, Division of Highways, Red Cross and State Police.

At 11, the Berkeley County Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Management confirmed the shelter location had been changed to Orchard View Intermediate School.

Martinsburg Fire Department indicated two chemicals may have been mixed in a tank at the treatment plant according to their incident page.

So far, there is no official word on any injuries.

This story will be updated. 

Coverage by Mike McCullough/Marsha Chwalik

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