Waxahachie chemical plant fire health claims still burning

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by BRETT SHIPP

WFAA

Posted on November 21, 2011 at 8:23 PM

Magnablend fire location

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WAXAHACHIE - The clean-up is entering the final stage in and around the site of that massive chemical plant fire in Waxahachie last month. And while plant owners are claiming significant and safe progress is being made, some residents say what's left behind is still making them sick.

It was the morning of Oct. 3. Workers at the Magnablend plant in Waxahachie allowed a batch of volatile chemicals to get out of hand. Two hours later, the entire facility and hundreds of thousands of gallons of hazardous chemicals were released into the environment.

Now, nearly two months later, crews are hauling off the last of what's left. Waxahachie Fire Chief David Hudgins says he's pleased with the progress.

“The building has been removed, most all of the material has been put in bins and they have power washed the slab down,” Chief Hudgins said.

The only set back, according to plant owners, occurred when a couple of heavy rains mixed with chemical runoff, creating ponds in places. It created some algae blooms and what they term, "foul odors."

But what residents who live near the plant say they've been smelling is worse than “foul."

Just a few yards from their homes you’ll find pits of chemical waste, pumped out of public view, which not only looks and smells bad, they say it's making them sick.

"The most noted thing were are hearing about has been lethargy, respiratory issues, severe headaches that all go along those lines,” said Bryan Thomas, an upset resident who lives a few blocks from the burned plant. “What’s worse, you can still smell it."

Thomas said he and his neighbors do not trust city or government officials who are telling them that what they are seeing and smelling is safe.

Chief Hudgins says he understand their concerns, but adds that none of his men, who come into frequent and direct contact with the leftover waste, have gotten sick.

“We were out there the other day, [the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality] was out there," Hudgins said. "They are wearing tennis shoes and blue jeans and pullovers. I feel like if it's good enough for them, then it's good enough for me."

Chief Hudgins said all of that foul-looking and smelling water will be pumped out, treated and put back into the city sewer system. Meanwhile, plant owners say they regret the inconvenience caused by the fire, and claim it has not impacted the health of the community.

E-mail bshipp@wfaa.com

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