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Settlement checks for Apex chemical explosion lost in mail

Posted March 2, 2010
Updated March 3, 2010

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— The checks are in the mail, but no one can find them.

Settlement checks for hundreds of Apex residents who had to leave their homes and businesses in October 2006 after an explosion and fire at a local hazardous waste facility are missing, an attorney for the residents said Tuesday.

When the Environmental Quality Industrial Services facility erupted into a fireball on Oct. 5, 2006, town officials ordered about 17,000 people to evacuate because they feared that toxic chemicals were in the plume of smoke that spread over Apex.

Investigators determined that improperly stored canisters caused the rapid spread of the fire throughout the facility, and residents sued EQ and some of the companies that sent oxygen canisters to the facility for disposal.

Under a $7.85 million settlement in the case, EQ and two Alabama-based companies agreed to pay 1,678 residents and business owners to compensate for the trouble of leaving their homes and for lost business.

Each household in the settlement was to receive up to $750, while each business would receive up to $2,200.

Jesse Shapiro, an attorney representing residents in the case, said settlement checks were issued on Feb. 16, but fewer than 200 people have received their money. The U.S. Postal Service cannot locate the 1,496 checks that were to be delivered to the 27502 ZIP code, he said.

Carl Walton, a Postal Service spokesman, called the missing checks a mystery and said it was "an unusual occurrence." He apologized for the delay and said postal workers would continue to search for the checks.

Shapiro said the court-appointed settlement administrator was printing new checks Tuesday for expedited delivery this week. The missing checks will be canceled, he said.

If the original checks are found after the new checks are issued, Walton said, the originals wouldn't be sent out.

EQ previously reimbursed the town of Apex more than $200,000 for its costs in responding to the fire and handling the evacuation.

The company also agreed not to reopen the facility to settle a state fine over environmental violations there.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • whatusay Mar 2, 2010

    "stop payment on the checks" Issue new checks and let those who desire pick them up in person.

  • miketroll3572 Mar 2, 2010

    96%.....? Haaaawaaawhaaa. I get the wrong mail on a daily basis and this is in a business area that is not difficult to deliver. They also lost a 14,000 dollar check that some passerby brought in from the parking lot.

  • scientistjo Mar 2, 2010

    "I wonder how UPS, FedEx, etc compare? "

    That's comparing apples to oranges. Those companies don't do nearly the volume the post office does.

  • not_enuff_time Mar 2, 2010

    I have absolutely no doubt the checks are lost. I work in Chapel Hill and we have been having a horrible time with the postal service getting things right. I have been complaining about this for several years now.

    It was only about 2 years ago we received a "returned" letter, it was actually postmarked almost 2 years before. This was not a check, just a letter, but it just shows what is happening.

    The USPS is in a whole lot of trouble. I don't understand how they think taking a day away will help, they can't get things where they need to be now!

  • 5-113 FA Retired Mar 2, 2010

    I just know they're telling the truth. They would never try and deceive us, now would they? After all, they promised. I think I'll send them a sympathy card (COD of course).

  • whatusay Mar 2, 2010

    Sounds like what happened to my "rebate check" for the computer I bought, "lost check in the mail". I wrote the NC Attorney General and within a week I received my $100.

  • tran Mar 2, 2010

    "Lost in the mail" has got to be one of the most dog eared cliches ever devised.

  • DeathRow-IFeelYourPain-NOT Mar 2, 2010

    Hahahahahahaha!!! That's appropriate. The check's in the mail. YEAH, RIGHT! Has anyone determined whether the company has actually mailed these checks? So funny!

  • scarletindurham Mar 2, 2010

    This story made me LOL -- they actually think people are dumb enough to believe this!?!

  • Caveman93 Mar 2, 2010

    Yeah right! Just like how my builders somehow "mysteriously" lose thier interest checks they mail to me every month I don't get ...GET REAL LOL!!!!