Detroit chemical plant experiences explosions, fire; residents evacuated/Brief

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

The EQ Resource Recovery Inc. and EQ Holding Company chemical processing plant near Romulus, Michigan, about 15 miles southwest of Detroit, was the scene of explosions and fire on Tuesday evening, continuing into Wednesday. The cause of the explosions and fire has not yet been determined.

Firefighters announced their intention to let the fire burn itself out, which was estimated will take approximately 8 hours. However, parts of the fire continued to burn as of Wednesday evening. There were evacuations of approximately 3000 residents from the area, but no reports of any serious injuries or fatalities. However, approximately 20 people were treated for breathing problems at nearby Oakwood Annapolis Hospital. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is analyzing soot in the area to determine whether it poses 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.

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. There was no indication that airport service would be affected.