City fined $3,000
The City of Morehead has been fined $3,000 by state occupational and safety officials for failing to properly respond to a hazardous chlorine gas leak in April at Carhartt Manufacturing.
The city was notified of the fine by the state office of occupational safety and health and voted to amend its budget to reflect the fee on Monday, Sept. 11.
On Wednesday, Sept. 20, council held a special meeting to address amending its policy for city and volunteer fire department standards to reflect proper operating procedures for hazardous materials incidents.
“The high point in the policy is that our agency will respond only at an operations level,” said new fire chief Brad Wade.
On Thursday, Chuck Wolfe, spokesperson with the state office of environmental and public protection said a notice of violation has been issued for Carhartt.
One citation was for open burning of fabric, lint and string, which is illegal, and the other was for not properly notifying emergency personnel of the leak of a contaminant.
He said he is not sure if there was a fine, as others who were closer to the investigation had been on vacation recently.
He did say that one of the specific measures was a suggestion that Carhartt pay to replace firefighter suits that were contaminated by chlorine. State law suggests the company could pay up to $25,000 depending on regulations violated.
The chlorine leak occurred on April 6, as Carhartt was closing its facility after it stopped operations on March 31.
Carhartt reportedly did not call 911, but an administrative police number instead, and former city fire chief Dale Adkins subsequently sent two firefighters in regular gear to the scene.
The two firefighters of Unit One were in danger of being severely burned, as firefighter suits are not equipped to keep a chemical such as chlorine from permeating the fabric.
Chlorine gas is a heavier, chemical concentrate than chlorine bleach, and can kill a person very quickly, because it turns into hydrochloric acid when it comes into contact with moisture, and causes severe chemical burns.
The moisture in this case could have been the sweat on the firefighters, due to wearing heavy gear, or even moisture in their lungs.
In the city- county hazardous materials law, there is a reporting requirement concerning the release of hazardous chemicals, such as a call to 911 dispatch and then a call to the HazMat team, located at the Farmers Fire Department.
In this case, the HazMat team was not called.
In the city’s amended policy, the hazardous material law was used, which addresses the proper procedure for emergency personnel.
The proper procedure for first responding firefighters is to notify an operations responder, who would ensure nearby persons are safe.
That operations responder is to notify an incident commander, who would initiate the first emergency apparatus. The incident commander then notifies a safety officer, who evaluates whether the procedure is being handled properly.
HazMat teams use safety suits that keep moisture out and have breathing equipment attached.
The former fire chief resigned soon afterward and the city advertised nationwide for a new chief.
Wade, the new fire chief, began the job on Monday, Aug. 14. He is from Kiowa, Colo.