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'Toxic' Explosion Shakes Romulus

Voluntary Evacuations Suggested For Neighborhood

POSTED: Tuesday, August 9, 2005
UPDATED: 11:56 am EDT August 10, 2005

An explosion at a chemical factory in Romulus Tuesday night continues to create a hazardous situation in the area.

Fire officials decided after midnight to allow the fire at EQ Resource Recovery, Inc., in Romulus to burn itself out, Local 4 reported. The fire began just after 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, but a cause has not yet been determined.

Hazmat crews remain at the scene Wednesday morning. Crews will inspect the area once the fire burns out, and determine the cleanup process, Local 4 reported.

Initial reports said the explosion occurred in Wayne, but Local 4 confirmed that the explosion was in Romulus in the area of Wayne and Van Born roads at EQ Resource Recovery, Inc. (EQRR) chemical plant. The company blends fuel and recycles solvent, according to its Web site.

The Wayne County Sheriff's Department cautioned residents of a hazardous materials situation Tuesday night. Residents within a half mile of the plant were being asked to voluntarily evacuate from their homes.

Remaining residents in the area were being told to close doors and windows in their homes. Air conditioning should be turned off. Officials are warning everyone to stay away from the area.

The sheriff's department is assisting with evacuations. Wayne Memorial High School and Romulus High School have been opened to accept anyone in the area who is evacuated. St. Mary's Church in Wayne is also accepting evacuees. About 1,000 residents have been evacuated in Wayne, Local 4 reported.

There were nine employees in the plant at the time of the explosion, according to EQ representative Dan Gilbert. Gilbert said the employees were outside, which made it "relatively easy for them when the emergency siren went off to get off site."

Gilbert said everyone had a meeting point, and all employees were accounted for.

Wayne County Sheriff Warren Evans said no injuries were reported.

Witnesses said the smell permeated the air and was "toxic." One woman explained the smell as a mix of charcoal and burning rubber.

Massive fireballs were exploding in the air, according to witnesses.

Oakwood Annapolis Hospital officials said it was receiving patients who were complaining of burning skin and eyes, and some who had trouble breathing. A decontamination center is being set up at the hospital in Wayne.

According to the company's Web site, the plant specializes in fuel blending, chemical recycling, recoverable petroleum products, oil recycling, and nonhazardous wastewater treatment services.

Plant Fire Leads To Closures

The explosion has led to closures in the area, including roadways and businesses.

B & D Threading, located across the street from the chemical plant, will be closed Wednesday, Local 4 reported. The Ford Wayne Truck Assembly Plant has cancelled the day shift, and the afternoon shift is pending, the station reported.

Several summer school programs at the Roosevelt McGrath Center in Wayne are also cancelled, according to Local 4.

Road closures because of the fire include Wayne Road, which is closed at Ecorse and Van Born roads.

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