Local News

EQ Won't Rebuild in Apex

Posted October 15, 2007

— The hazardous waste company whose Apex site exploded in a fireball a year ago, forcing the evacuation of about half the town, agreed Monday not to rebuild in order to settle a dispute with state regulators.

Environmental Quality Industrial Services agreed to pay more than $400,000 in penalties, fees and reimbursements to the state. The state Division of Waste Management levied a record $553,225 fine against the company in March, citing previous violations of the company's hazardous waste permit at the Apex site, including unreported fires and chemical leaks.

State regulators had sought to terminate EQ's permit, and Apex officials vowed to fight any effort by the company to rebuild. EQ chose to surrender its permit for the Apex site to settle the state's claims against the company.

"(We're) certainly relieved and gratified. It's been a long year," Apex Mayor Keith Weatherly said. "(State regulators) didn't think it was appropriate for EQ to operate in our community and certainly wanted town officials to do everything we could do to make that possible."

It's unclear what EQ will do with the site, which it owns.

“We are pleased that we were able to reach a negotiated and mutually agreed upon settlement with (the state),” EQ Vice President of Regulatory Affairs Scott Maris said in a statement. “Now that this matter is resolved, we can all move on.”

EQ would have to submit to a rigorous permit application process to open another hazardous waste site in the state, officials said, adding that the company's compliance history would be an important factor in making a decision about the permit.

“(This) announcement responds to the concerns of Apex residents that operations of the EQ permitted hazardous waste facility not continue at the site,” Dexter Matthews, director of the Division of Waste Management, said in a statement. “This announcement should also assure citizens of the state that hazardous waste management permits will only be issued or continued for owners and operators that manage their facilities in a manner protective of human health and the environment.”

The Apex facility erupted in flames on Oct. 5, 2006, sending a plume of smoke across town. Fearing that toxic chemicals were in the plume, town officials called for about 17,000 nearby residents to evacuate their homes.

Residents were allowed to return home a day later – after the fire had burned itself out. Subsequent state tests showed no immediate or long-term health threats.

In response to the fire, state lawmakers adopted stiffer rules for hazardous waste operators.

The regulations, which went into effect this month, call for more state oversight of such facilities. Also, companies are required to provide local officials and neighbors with updated information about the materials stored on site and to have 24-hour security and surveillance to respond to after-hours emergencies more quickly.

Because the EQ facility was destroyed, authorities haven't been able to pinpoint the cause of the fire, but they have said improperly labeled oxygen canisters helped spread the fire, which they believe was sparked by wrongly stored chemicals.

All hazardous wastes were removed from the facility in the weeks following the fire and were properly disposed of off-site.

EQ last month reimbursed Apex for more than $200,000 spent in fighting the fire and in the evacuation. Many residents also were repaid for expenses they incurred in the incident, although some have said the company still owes them money.

A class-action suit that a group of Apex residents filed against EQ is pending.


Please with your WRAL.com account to comment on this story. You also will need a Facebook account to comment.

Oldest First
View all
  • Made In USA Oct 15, 2007

    Psychobabble...they were not containing the chemicals as they were hired to do. Their property was the border-lines for their business, not the neighborhood or the surrounding area. If they needed a buffer zone around their property in order to do business, then they should have had one. But that was not the case. The company has had safety issues in the past at other locations (including fires) and as a person working near their warehouse, I can rightfully say that this company did not put safety first.

  • zoocrew Oct 15, 2007

    wow i never would have guessed that this would happen

  • anonemoose Oct 15, 2007

    Made, which was there first, the storage facility or your house? If the facility was, then you have no standing to complain.

    I hope they put a crack house and brothel on the site. All these people complaining moved close to it then complained like people who move 1/2 mile from an airport then whine like babies about the noise.

  • Made In USA Oct 15, 2007

    Thank you Apex for standing up for your citizens in a time of need.

  • Made In USA Oct 15, 2007

    I see that some people are pro and some are con about EQ not rebuilding at their old site. Take it from a resident that has been breathing fumes from this plant for the past three years....this is a good thing that they are not going to rebuild. I worked near the plant, and some days the smell from EQ's property was sickening. Every day a different odor came from this place. For three solid years. So the new houses that have been built around them is not a factor. ALL nearby buildings have been exposed to their toxic fumes, as were their workers too. I know for a fact for I was in one of them. I commend the areas officials and the State Of NC, along with the EPA, for putting their citizens ahead of the almighty dollar and making our health a priority. I was exposed to the toxic clouds on that night trying to flee. I have been in an unreported toxic cloud as well from EQ's property AFTER the fire that looked like a heavy fog. I hope that this exposure doesn't come to haunt me later.

  • Lesley Oct 15, 2007

    Ummm...guys and gals....this plant existed before most homes in the area were built. So, at one point and time it was away from a populated area. You need to check zoning in your area to see what kind of businesses can go up - my guess is that it will be zoned light to heavy industrial in the future.

  • Rolling Along Oct 15, 2007

    BTW the plant had been there since 1987 under a different name.

  • Rolling Along Oct 15, 2007

    They don't need to be near towns that is agreed, however I believe that plant had been there for several years and the town grew up around it. I can remember when Apex was a one horse town and not so high and mighty.

  • lynddsy Oct 15, 2007

    this is good! i think a toxic place like this was should be off from a populated area. i also think it needs to be better regulated. and disclosure of the chemicals it deals with given to local emergency officials an updated regularly.

  • dk12 Oct 15, 2007

    Are they going to allow other businesses use the space. or
    will just become another housing development?? since there's already a traffic problem. I would guess they'll opt for more housing..too bad.