Local News

Apex Leaders Plan To Block EQ Rebuilding Plans

Posted October 13, 2006

— Earlier this week, Apex Mayor Keith Weatherly made it clear that he doesn't want Environmental Quality Industrial Services to rebuild its facility in his town after last week's fire destroyed a building and resulted in the evacuation of about 17,000 people.

On Friday, Weatherly said the town has the authority to prohibit EQ from rebuilding, saying a legal explanation of the procedure would be discussed at Tuesday's Town Council meeting.

Apex Gym Remains Closed For Cleanup

All this week, the town attorney and city staff have been looking into whether EQ would be allowed to rebuild under new zoning laws passed in 2003. There was the question of whether the company would be grandfathered in because its facility was in place before the zoning.

Weatherly also said he has unanimous support from the council to try to ensure that Apex would no longer has a hazardous waste site in town.

At Least One Nearby Business Still Closed For Cleanup

EQ has finalized a cleanup plan for the site of the chemical fire. Workers in chemical suits spent a good part of Friday at the plant looking over the debris. Once the state signs off on the cleanup plan, work may begin, perhaps as early as next week.

At the same time, an Apex gymnasium that is next door to the EQ property and hosts scores of children is conducting its own cleanup after traces of hazardous materials were found inside.

An EPA-certified company hired by EQ tested the air inside Apex Gymnastics and found its air quality was good. However, gym owner Jean Sciacca hired her own environmental company for more detailed swabbing. The results showed traces of nickel and mercury inside.

Sciacca said the gym would remain closed indefinitely as a specialized company cleans her business from top to bottom.

"I want to ensure the parents and children that it's safe to be in our building," she said.

Wake County's environmental director said there's no way of knowing that the Apex gym testing is valid because there isn't a before-and-after sample. However, Sciacca doesn't think that matters.

"I just want it to be safe," she said.

Across the street, Dream Sports reopened after the same EQ contractor signed off on its air quality. Before letting people in, owner Rick Ahmed threw out all food and cleaned and replaced all air filters, ducts and coils.

"I feel safe and confident we have it all done," Ahmed said. "My concern is I can't force parents to come here. They have to feel comfortable we've done everything we could."

Both Apex Gymnastics and Dream Sports had their air-conditioning units shut off the night of the fire. Both companies have insurance, but it is unclear whether insurance will pay for their cleanup expenses.

All schools closed during the fire are at least a half-mile away from the site. Their ventilation systems are routinely closed at night. Still, the schools' air filters were replaced, and cafeterias were wiped down. The school system also hired a private environmental firm to take samples at four schools, but nothing dangerous was found.


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