Local News

Panel Begins Reviewing State Hazardous Waste Rules

Posted October 24, 2006 7:05 a.m. EDT

— Three weeks after a chemical fire at a hazardous waste site led to the evacuation of about 17,000 Apex residents, a state panel Tuesday started discussing ways to tighten regulations on such facilities.

A building at the Environmental Quality Industrial Services site in Apex burned for more than 24 hours on Oct. 5-6 before firefighters were able to extinguish it. The response to the fire was delayed for several hours because authorities didn't know what materials were on the site, which repackaged hazardous wastes from businesses and laboratories for disposal.

State law requires companies to file a report with environmental regulators stating what materials they can handle, but it doesn't mandate a daily report of what is on a site at a particular time.

"At the EQ facility, none of the materials they had on-sight met (existing) thresholds. Therefore, we did not have a pre-existing standing report within our database that told us what was there," said Josh Creighton, emergency preparedness specialist for Wake County's Division of Emergency Management.

EQ officials weren't able to provide state and local officials a list of what was stored in the warehouse until four days after the fire.

Gov. Mike Easley appointed the state panel to look at the response to the Apex incident and to review state laws governing hazardous waste sites. He said stricter reporting requirements are needed to protect firefighters and others responding to emergencies.

The panel is expected to complete its report by Dec. 15.