Crews evacuate near fire on Tenn. Superfund site

CREATED Dec. 18, 2013

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Firefighters have stopped trying to put out a large industrial fire at a federal Superfund site in central Tennessee because of fears that two 1,000-gallon propane tanks there could explode.

Kim Skelton in the Hickman County mayor's office says the fire at Industrial Plastics Recycle started at about 10 a.m. Wednesday. She says surrounding homes, schools and businesses have been evacuated. Officials could not immediately say how many people were affected by the evacuation.

Video from local television stations showed the smoke from the site about 45 miles southwest of Nashville forming large black clouds that darkened the surrounding landscape.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency spokesman James Pinkney says an on-scene coordinator was headed to the site. Federal Superfund sites were created for the cleanup or removal of areas in which hazardous toxic waste was dumped.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

Emergency workers on Wednesday evacuated a 4-mile radius around a burning plastics recycling plant on a contaminated federal Superfund site in central Tennessee.

Kim Skelton in the Hickman County mayor's office said the fire started at about 10 a.m. and that officials evacuated nearby homes because they were concerned about toxic fumes. Skelton said fire crews from surrounding counties were helping to put out the blaze about 45 miles southwest of Nashville that sent big, black clouds of smoke into the air.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency spokesman James Pinkney said someone from the agency was headed to the scene to assist. Federal Superfund sites were created for the cleanup or removal of areas in which hazardous toxic waste was dumped.

The EPA website said the former Wrigley Charcoal Plant, located northwest of Highway 100, was placed on the National Priorities List in 1989 because of contaminated debris, ground water and soil in the county of about 24,000. The Superfund area includes a 35-acre primary site and surrounding areas comprising about 300 acres.

Industrial Plastics Recycling, a small-scale recycling facility that works on metals and plastics and there is waste product storage on a portion of the primary site.

According to the website, the EPA and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation have investigated conditions at the property and taken steps to clean up the site "in order to protect people and the environment from contamination." The investigation and clean-up are ongoing.

TDEC spokeswoman Kelly Brockman said state environmental officials will have to wait until the fire is out before they can assess possible public health and environmental implications.

Skelton said there have not been any reports of injuries, although she said there are a lot of homes near the site.

"We're probably 10 or 12 miles from there, and I can see the smoke from where we're at," she said. "It's pretty high up. It looks like a big, black storm cloud."

According to the EPA website, the Superfund site was home to various industrial operations, including iron, charcoal and wood distillation product manufacturing, beginning in 1880.  Contaminants of concern include wood tar chemicals, metals and volatile organic compounds.

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