North Carolina Officials Hold Off On 'All-Clear' Notice

Apex officials said they want to be sure the threat of contamination has been eliminated.

He said he had to leave his tractor-trailer full of flammable household chemicals, including paints and paint thinner, parked outside the plant.

State environmental officials fined EQ $32,000 in March for failing to minimize the possibility of a release of hazardous-waste materials or implement a contingency plan for a possible release.

Doyle, the EQ spokesman, said the fire was unrelated to the previous fine. The company has a "very robust" safety plan, including extensive training, he said.

Town officials were unaware of the fine and planned to discuss the matter with state officials, Weatherly said.

"It certainly would have been prudent for us to have been aware," he said.

But Weatherly said the town had no compliance issues with the plant and noted EQ had no violations in its latest state inspection, on Sept. 28-29. State regulators inspect the plant four times a month, he said.

A company at the same Investment Boulevard address, Enviro-Chem Environmental Services Inc., was fined $131,000 by state inspectors in February 2001 for a series of violations, including storing hazardous waste in an unpermitted area and failure to properly secure the facility.

In August 2005, a large explosion and fire rocked an EQ plant near Detroit. More than 1,000 nearby residents were evacuated.

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