Members of the Charleston City Commission said they received many calls on the day of the chemical release at the Wacker Polysilicon North America plant, but did not have any information to pass …
Members of the Charleston City Commission said they received many calls on the day of the chemical release at the Wacker Polysilicon North America plant, but did not have any information to pass along.
Thus, the commission wants to be involved in receiving information in the future, much like it has in a community group that informs the governing body of incidents at Olin Corporation, Lonza, and Resolute Products near the city.
Director of Environmental Health and Safety Chad Morgan, Wacker Charleston's plant, told the commission in a monthly gathering Tuesday night he would pass their concerns to the administration at the plant. Also present at the meeting were Shawn Fairbanks of Bradley County Fire-Rescue and Johnny Stokes, Charleston police chief.
Commissioner Frankie McCartney said the commission should have been contacted, but wasn't.
"We got so many calls, and it was scary for us to not have information to pass along," he said.
Donna McDermott, one of the three Charleston city commissioners, asked what to do if this occurs again.
However, Fairbanks said the incident was no more dangerous than similar events at other chemical plants in the Charleston area.
"It was no bigger than any response we have had at Olin, but it's the not knowing that caused so many concerns," he said. Fairbanks added that social media did not help when residents in that area were putting out misinformed posts.
"We heard that the water was green in Cleveland, and folks were saying this was due to the explosion and leak at Wacker," Fairbanks said. "Actually, Cleveland Utilities was testing their lines, and it had nothing to do with Wacker."
He said that to avoid the wrong information being disbursed, officials are looking at a monitoring/siren system that would be placed at Walker Valley High School, Charleston Elementary School and Love's Truck Stop. He also pointed out that emergency services are looking at the NIXLE emergency phone system, and the possibility of setting up a link there for Charleston-area residents.
Fairbanks told the commission that the road closings the day of the incident were "precautionary," because local emergency management was unsure of what was being released. He said ramps to the interstate were closed, but local emergency services did not close the interstate itself.
He did say when there was a wind shift that afternoon, Lauderdale Memorial Highway, Mouse Creek Road and a portion of North Lee Highway were closed.
Morgan said that there are quite a few things to manage at the plant, but employees there are still working, and Wacker was actually in the process of hiring additional workers. He added that the Tennessee Office of Safety and Health Administration is investigating the incident, as is a third-party organization hired by Wacker to pin down problems at the plant that day.
He said that there are projected plans to set up a web page for information, and a possible auto text program for residents of that area.
"It is all on the table," he said.
Fairbanks said there is a meeting set for Thursday evening of emergency responders and industries in the area to discuss getting information out to the public.
"And I think that these companies need to invite the city commission to their facilities to learn more about them," said the Bradley County Board of Education's Vicki Beaty. Mayor Walter Goode agreed, saying that he was going to bring that up in the meeting before Beaty mentioned it.
McDermott stressed to those in attendance that they should install the NIXLE program on their cellphones, and pass that information on to family, friends and other residents. NIXLE can be accessed by texting NIXLE to 888777, she stated.
• In other action at Tuesday's Charleston City Commission meeting, it was learned that two of the Trail of Tears signs had been stolen from near Charleston. Anyone with information on those thefts is asked to contact the Charleston Police Department
Commissioners also learned that a basketball goal from the park had been stolen, and the theft is being investigated.
The city commission agreed not to seek a deed for a cemetery in the city that city employees maintain. They were told by Goode that if there are any issues that arise from the city taking ownership of the cemetery, there could be a $500 fine to Charleston.
"It is not our property, but we do help with mowing," Goode said.
Commissioners consented to the Methodist church which owns the cemetery, that once the deed to the property is found grants for the facility should be sought.
McDermott stressed that the city's Fall Festival will occur on Saturday, Oct. 28, at the city's park, from 5 p.m. to dark. Candy, hot dogs, popcorn and other items will be available for the public.
"We need to get on this, because it is not too far away," Goode said of the time needed to get publicity out about the festival, as well as seeking vendors who would like to be involved.
Fairbanks gave approval for the use of the fire-rescue service's dunk tank for the festival, and possibly bringing in a bounce house for children was discussed.
A meeting concerning the Fall Festival has been scheduled for Thursday at 6 p.m. at city hall.
Melissa Woody told the member that the state secretary of tourism will be visiting Charleston on Friday at 2 p.m., for unveiling of the sign for the Blueway, which will be located at the Charleston boat ramp/put-in.
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