The fire fallout: State, federal agencies investigate possible contamination from Marietta chemical fire
by Rachel Gray
June 02, 2014 04:00 AM | 9027 views | 3 3 comments | 29 29 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Marietta fire personnel remained on the scene on May 24 pouring water on a structure after a two-alarm fire broke out May 23 at AmRep, a company specializing in aerosols and bulk chemicals. Officials from the county’s hazmat unit and Marietta’s water department say the state is investigating a ‘fish kill’ in Sope Creek that might be linked to the fire.<br>Staff/Jeff Stanton
Marietta fire personnel remained on the scene on May 24 pouring water on a structure after a two-alarm fire broke out May 23 at AmRep, a company specializing in aerosols and bulk chemicals. Officials from the county’s hazmat unit and Marietta’s water department say the state is investigating a ‘fish kill’ in Sope Creek that might be linked to the fire.
Staff/Jeff Stanton
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MARIETTA — Officials from the county’s hazmat unit and Marietta’s water department say the state is investigating a “fish kill” in Sope Creek that might be linked to a May 23 fire at a chemical plant.

AmRep’s manufacturing center on Industrial Park Road near Cobb Parkway and Allgood Road in Marietta, which makes professional-grade chemical products, broke out in a two-alarm fire more than a week ago, engulfing the entire warehouse and burning a building to the ground.

Days after the fire, Cobb residents called Marietta Power and Water to report dead and dying fish in Sope Creek, which runs a little more than 2 miles south of where the AmRep fire blazed and then flows downstream into east Cobb.

Bob Snelson, director of Marietta Water, said the city department contacted the Georgia Department of Natural Resources in response to the reports from residents.

“The DNR sent out a state biologist with their Wildlife Resources Division, and the biologist determined that the fish kill had ended by Sunday (May 25) and by Sunday afternoon, the area had returned to normal conditions,” according to the city’s spokeswoman, Lindsey Thompson Wiles.

The investigation is ongoing and the DNR is actively monitoring the situation at Sope Creek, Wiles said.

Monitoring air and water conditions were underway soon after the fire broke out, according to Battalion Chief Scott Demkowski of Cobb Fire’s hazmat team.

Two hours after the fire started, Demkowski said a crew of roughly eight people checked air and water qualities, looking for “volatile organic compounds” or explosive chemical fumes.

“Nothing hit outside of the normal limits,” he said.

At 2:30 a.m. the morning after the fire, Demkowski said his team tested nearby water again, but nothing on the test strips gave a cause for concern.

The test was performed along with a member of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, who told Demkowski there were reports of “fish stress” in the area.

Cobb Fire’s hazmat team was put in charge of monitoring during the incident — but not cleanup — and further testing is now the responsibility of other state and federal departments such as the Environmental Protection Agency.

Demkowski said because of the destruction caused by the fire and not knowing what chemicals the ware-house had on hand or where certain products were stored, “we honestly don’t know which (chemicals) were released.”

“There are numerous — several hundred chemicals — that are normally stored on site there,” he said.

According to a report about the fire sent to the Securities and Exchange Commission by Zep Inc., which owns the AmRep facility in Marietta, the plant produces “60 million cans of various aerosol products at the facility,” including cleaning chemicals, lubricants and automotive breaker cleaner.

The report outlines the company’s casualty and business-interruption insurance, which will start coverage after a $1 million deductible.

Marietta Police spokesman Officer David Baldwin said no one was hurt at the time of the fire, but the report by Zep Inc. listed two employees had reported minor injuries.

On the night of the fire, Baldwin said the fumes from the smoke plumes were not toxic, but about 200 people in the surrounding area, including the Walker School, were evacuated.

About 25 emergency units from both Cobb and Marietta responded to the blaze, along with two foam-spraying trucks from Lockheed-Martin. It took until about 4 a.m. to completely extinguish the fire.

Hazmat teams from Cobb and Marietta on the scene were called into service as well, Demkowski said.

“A lot of hazmat technicians were engaged in firefighting activity,” he said.

Investigators have yet to determine what started the fire, though arson has been ruled out, Baldwin said.

Comments
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Catherine Fox
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June 02, 2014
This facility was likely required to have a Spill Prevention, Countermeasures and Control Plan for use in preventing and responding to emergencies. The Plan is supposed to include a list and volumes of most types of hazardous materials. This is a state and federal requirement. Hope someone is checking. If they did not have it in place as required, they can be sued by the Riverkeeper and also pay a much larger fine to the state and fed.
Elicia
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June 02, 2014
Sope Creek is a tributary of the Chattahoochee River. Has anyone looked for downstream effects?
Just Wait
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June 02, 2014
Thanks to the AJC for your article on this fire. Now there will be countless law suits filed against the county for health claims. This was a case of reporting before all the information was available.
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