WVU in the News: West Virginia University experts weigh in on environmental issues leading to Belle chemical plant explosion, discuss chemicals exposed to air

Tuesday night’s chemical plant explosion at Optima Chemical’s facility on the Chemours Co.’s site in Belle killed one plant worker and injured three.

According to a report in the Charleston Gazette-Mail, C.W. Sigma, director of emergency management for Kanawha County, said responding parties reported chlorinated dry bleach and methanol were involved in the explosion.

A shelter-in-place order was issued for an area surrounding the blast for several hours after the fact.

Michael McCawley, clinical associate professor in the Department of Occupational and Environmental Health Sciences, discussed the role the environment possibly played in the explosion.

“With the recent explosion at the Belle Chemour Chemical Plant it is important that the residents in Charleston understand the part that weather and terrain play in the risk of exposure to air pollution,” McCawley said. “The location of the plant in question and the surrounding community is at the bottom of a river valley. These valleys, and the local weather that happens because of them, can typically limit the dilution of any chemicals discharged into the air.”

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