Emergency Crews Called to Tenn. Chemical Spill

LA VERGNE, Tenn. --

Hazmat crews in Rutherford County were at the scene of a chemical spill Friday at the site of a closed business. Authorities are now looking into whether someone was using the site as a dumping ground for chemicals.

On Friday morning, a La Vergne police officer saw a person -- who said he's the brother of the owner -- loading 55-gallon barrels into the back of a pickup truck at 162 Jefferson Pike, the former location of Pipe Dreams Inc. Police were in the area because of some recent thefts.

The officer noticed a strong smell and called the city's fire department.

Hazmat crews were immediately sent out to the area, where they discovered the chemicals, possibly including acetone, were flammable and were poured onto the ground behind the business and extended about 40 yards to the side of the railroad tracks. CSX Railroad has been notified of the spill.

"We came out and was able to define a specific area that may be contaminated by an unknown product," said Tim Hooker of the Rutherford County Emergency Management Agency. "Some may be acetone, which is indicated on the 55-gallon drums."

There were about a dozen drums. Officials said at least half of them contained acetone or traces of the chemical commonly used as paint thinner or paint stripper. But it doesn't appear the dumping was a one-time event, they said.

"We may have some dumping going on for quite some time. Looks like the product spread quite some distance through the soil down near the railroad tracks," Hooker said.

With the high winds, there was a sweet, acidic smell coming from the area. Officials tested the air quality.

"We were using a PID monitor, which reads volatile organic compounds as well, and for a 42-degree day, we were getting ratings of 496, which is extremely high," said Rick McCormick, emergency services coordinator.

According to a city news release, an environmental service company and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservations solid waste division are sampling the soil to determine the type of contaminate and scope of the potential impact.

"The testing is going to have to be extensive in the area to determine the exact scope and size of the contaminated area," said Hooker.

Officials said they don't believe the spill poses a hazard to the community. If the area is found to be contaminated, the owner of the building will be responsible for the cleanup and could possibly be fined.

Hazmat crews said the good news was that there was no nearby water supply for the possible acetone to run off in.

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