SC - Blast Releases Ammonia Cloud : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

[Fair use for education and research purpose only]


Friday, April 28, 2000 By EDWARD C. FENNELL and BEN BRAZIL Of The Post and Courier staff

A late Thursday explosion at a North Charleston business released clouds of ammonia, sending two people to the hospital and causing authorities to urge nearby residents to evacuate.

Exactly what caused the 9:30 p.m. blast at Triangle Ice Co. on Spruill Avenue and Bexley Street was unknown. Firefighters wearing protective gear against hazardous materials were still working hours later to stop the flow of ammonia gas.

Triangle Ice employees had arrived at the factory late Thursday and were trying to help firefighters find the source of the leak.

At about 11:30 a heavy fog-like cloud could be seen coming up from behind the building as the ammonia continued to flow. The leak was being stopped at about midnight.

North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey said one civilian and one police officer were taken to area hospitals after being overcome by fumes. The officer was released after treatment and returned to the scene, Summey said. Police cars barricaded intersections for several blocks around the explosion site.

Summey said residents of a small mobile home park located behind Triangle Ice were asked to evacuate. Officers went door-to-door in some areas to contact residents about the problem.

The Red Cross was on the scene, but had not been asked to provide shelter late Thursday.

"We're encouraging people to close their doors and windows and cut off their air conditioning units," Summey said. He said authorities believe there was no immediate danger from the fumes except for those in the immediate area of the explosion, as long as people stayed indoors.

Wanda Held, operator of the nearby Z-Bar nightclub, said she heard nothing before the ammonia leak began. She heard sirens and saw lights outside.

"All I know is it's not doing my business any good," she said, pointing out that Spruill Avenue was blocked off in front of the bar. Police said they did not know what caused the explosion, but they said ammonia is commonly used as a coolant in machinery that makes ice.

"It will burn your nostrils, but it's not life-threatening," Summey said.

The foul smell, however, was strong. "Hopefully, if we can get the leak cut off, the plume of smell will dissipate," Summey said.

North Charleston City Councilman Kurt Taylor, whose district includes the factory, said he could smell the ammonia a quarter mile away from the plant, and that the odor had drifted as far as Quarterman's Lake, which is located between Spruill Avenue and Park Circle.

"If it were much more of a concentration, I wouldn't have been able to breathe," Taylor said.

Taylor, who said he could smell the gas until after 11 p.m., said the situation - though frightening - was under control.

"Things seem to be settling down," he said at 11:30 p.m. "People are just going to go in and do the forensics, see what happened and try to get things capped off. I'm not concerned at all ... It's well in hand."


-- (, April 28, 2000

Moderation questions? read the FAQ