Last week about 17,000 residents of Apex, North Carolina were evacuated due to the potential for chlorine gas contamination from a hazardous-waste facility fire operated by EQ Industrial Services Inc.. However, EQ denies the presence of chlorine gas and has stated that monitors have found no sign of elevated levels of chlorine in the air or nearby waterways. A federal Chemical Safety Board report will not be released for several months.
EQ Industrial Services was fined $32,000 in March for six violations by the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources. The fine was almost double as any for a other hazardous waste facility in North Carolina in 2006. But the department says the company must be inspected four times a month and its inspection as recently as September 28-29. The March violations were of the kind that are usually fixed quickly.
A similar fire at another of the company’s hazardous waste facilities outside Detroit last year forced 2,000 residents to evacuate their homes and sent 32 people to hospital for treatment. The investigation of that fire is ongoing and no fines for violations have been issued thus far.