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EQ Held Public Hearing on Locating in Apex

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RALEIGH, N.C. — In the wake of last week's chemical fire in Apex, residents who live close to the hazardous-waste transfer facility have said they were unaware of the type of business the facility conducted.

The plant had operated at the site for more than a year, however, and another hazardous-waste facility operated at the same location before that.

"I didn't know it was there," Apex resident Larry Hill said of the Environmental Quality Industrial Services plant. About 17,000 residents who lived in proximity of it had to leave their homes after growing concern of public-health threats.

Although many Apex residents did not know about EQ, a public hearing and public comment period were held when the company applied for its permit in 2005. State officials said just one person made a comment, and that was an EQ employee.

Even thought there was little public input, North Carolina says it is stricter than other states when it comes to the locations of facilities such as EQ.

"North Carolina has a standard that goes beyond the (Environmental Protection Agency) standards," said Bud McCarty, Facility Management Branch head in the state's Hazardous Waste Section. "Facilities have to be at least one-quarter of a mile from schools, prisons and from health care facilities."

According the North Carolina Division of Waste Management, the state monitors more than 6,000 chemical producers and storage facilities statewide, including 300 in Wake County that store and process chemical products. Nearly 200 more operate in Durham County.

Of those, 10 in the state are comparable to the EQ plant, according to waste management's Hazardous Waste Section. All are registered as commercial hazardous-waste management facilities, including Safety-Kleen, which operates on Old Stage Road in Raleigh, and Veolia Environmental Services in Creedmoor.

EQ officials said Monday they plan to rebuild their facility. Many residents have said that if the company does plan to reopen, they plan to fight the company to ensure a repeat of last week's chemical fire does not happen again.

Some advocates of protecting communities from releases of toxic chemicals, such as Environment North Carolina, say the best way to limit possible exposure is to limit use.

"The best way to reduce our risks of toxic chemical explosions and leaks is to reduce the use of toxic chemicals," said Margaret Hartzell, a field associate with the group. "We have the potential for safer alternatives."


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