Detroit chemical plant experiences explosions, fire; residents evacuated

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Wednesday, August 10, 2005

All residents within a half-mile radius of the EQ Resource Recovery chemical plant in southeastern Michigan were asked to voluntarily evacuate on Tuesday due to a chemical plant explosion. ClickOnDetroit reported that nearby residents who choose to stay were told to close their doors and windows.

The plant, located in Romulus, near Wayne, is about 15 miles southwest of Detroit. Initial reports stated that a single explosion in a chemical tank was the cause of the fire. The cause of this explosion has not yet been determined. Detroit ABC affiliate WXYZ confirmed that all employees made it out of the plant before the explosion occurred, and that HAZMAT teams were on the scene of the fire. Wayne County Sheriff Warren Evans announced that no injuries were reported in the initial explosion. However, approximately 32 people were treated for breathing problems at nearby Oakwood Annapolis Hospital, due to the subsequent fire.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) analyzed soot in the area and determined that it did not pose a substantial health risk. The company in question has been the target of numerous enforcement actions by the EPA in the past, including a $240,000 fine in 1999. A major chemical processed at the plant is acetone, the main ingredient in nail polish remover, which is known to be toxic in high dosages, especially to those with lung conditions. Acetone is also an eye and skin irritant. Other chemicals, such as antifreeze, are also processed there. Two Detroit-area law firms have filed class action lawsuits against EQ Resource Recovery on behalf of local residents, and a third is considering similar action.

Romulus is the site of the Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW), the primary airport for the Detroit area and a hub for Northwest Airlines. However, airport service was not affected. News of this explosion came as a chemical plant explosion in Story City, Iowa happened just a day before and three similar explosions in Texas occurred July 28.

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