Wacker to idle Bradley Co. plant for months as investigation continues
Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017
Wacker Chemie has issued a statement on their investigation into the "root-cause" of the Sept. 7 explosion at the Charleston plant.
The investigation, being conducted by an unnamed "independent expert team", is cooperating with governmental authorities and is "well underway", according to a Wacker news release.
The explosion was caused by a technical defect prompting a leak of hydrogen which subsequently caught fire, severely damaging a small facility at the production plant. The chemical release of hydrogen chloride (hydrochloric acid) and the resulting plume of vapor was seen for miles.
Twelve people were hurt in the explosion. It forced neighbors of the plant to shelter in place and closed Interstate 75 for several hours.
Wacker said Wednesday that the plant will be closed for several months until "a thorough inspection is completed and it is certain that the facility is safe.”
Employees will be utilized to perform repairs and advanced training courses.
The financial effects to Wacker are expected to be minimal due to insurance coverage for damages and loss of production.
Monday, Sept. 18, 2017
Hydrochloric acid has continued to leak at the Wacker Chemie facility in Bradley County more than a week after the plant temporarily shut down operations following a hydrogen chemical release.
Bradley County's EMA Director, Troy Spence, told NBC affiliate, WRCB, that the leak is coming from the broken pipes from the explosion.
An estimated six tons of chemicals is located in a part of plant that was structurally unsafe. Crews stabilized it Monday.
Wacker employees are working to move those chemicals to a holding tank.
According to Spence, there's not enough leaking to leave the facility.
Wacker Chemie temporarily shut down operations at the Charleston facility on Sept. 8. A chemical release occurred at the plant the day before and several roads surrounding the facility, including I-75 and part of Highway 11, were closed.
Charleston is located in Bradley County, between Athens and Cleveland.