Chemical plant relocation upsetting Ellis County residents

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by BRETT SHIPP

WFAA

Posted on January 5, 2012 at 11:47 PM

Magnablend fire location

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WAXAHACHIE - Three months ago, a chemical plant explosion upset Waxahachie residents exposed to the smoke and fumes. Now, plant officials are upsetting residents with plans to expand to an infamous plot of land on the outskirts of town.

Waxahachie residents won't soon forget the images. Billowing plumes of flames and smoke, pouring from the Magnablend chemical plant. Few knew the risks of living next door could be so high.

"Residents have complained about health problems and Magnablend has totally ignored that,” says Waxahachie resident Dave Vance, who has spent the past two months researching the company and the accident. “They continue saying that air and water was safe and we've got records from the TCEQ that show otherwise."

A preliminary state investigation has found three violations at another Magnablend plant, and continues its criminal inquiry at the Magnablend Central plant that exploded.

Now Magnablend has pledged to relocate.

It has offered to buy a 135-acre site west of town. The property was once known as the Super Conducting Super Collider, home to what was to be the the world's largest atom smasher. But in 1993, Congress pulled the plug on the project and the complex has wasted away.

Magnablend has quietly made an offer to buy and revive.

So quiet, neighbors like Al Nardiello are just now finding out about it. Suddenly a new segment of the population is upset.

"I'm really shocked,” Nardiello said. “I didn't come out here to be neighbors with a chemical plant. I'm sorry if that sounds rash."

All day Thursday, word spread.

Residents are expressing anger that their peaceful, agrarian existence could be invaded by a chemical plant with a dangerous past.

Another concern to some is the prospect of heavy tanker trucks, loaded with toxic chemicals, rolling up and down the hilly, narrow, two-lane highways that lead to the plant.

Ellis County Commissioner Heath Sims lives just a few miles from the proposed plant.

"As a resident, I'm concerned, but I also, as an elected official, have to look at this issue from both sides," Sims said.

He said while the county can't prohibit nor regulate the plant, he says the owner has pledged safety first.

“We just hope that through the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and its permitting process, that everybody does what they say they are going to do," Sims said.

Magnablend's owner plans to meet with citizens Friday night near the proposed site and calm their fears.

E-mail bshipp@wfaa.com

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