Local News

U.S. Report Expected on EQ Blast, Fire

Posted June 25, 2007 11:32 p.m. EDT
Updated June 26, 2007 8:28 a.m. EDT

— Federal investigators say they have a big announcement connected to the Environmental Quality (EQ) chemical fire last October in Apex.

The federal Chemical Safety Board said Monday that it would announce its findings at a news conference in Raleigh on Wednesday morning.

While the CSB won't say if it has pinpointed a cause, the board will say it has a critical new finding to release and an urgent recommendation for a company that is not EQ.

CSB investigators also plan to issue a safety advisory, related to the fire, that will apply to the hundreds of hazardous waste transfer facilities like EQ across the country.

EQ operated as a hazardous waste storage site. Companies dropped off hazardous materials. EQ would package them for transportation to disposal facilities.

The quiet Apex company got national attention Oct. 5, when a fireball erupted at the site, sending clouds of smoke into the air over downtown Apex and prompting officials to tell 16,000 residents to evacuate.

Town Manager Bruce Radford said the CSB will give town officials a briefing on Wednesday, and he's curious to hear the findings.

"I certainly hope they found a magic bullet that will explain what happened there," Radford said.

Radford doesn't know what to make of the findings, given that CSB investigators initially said it would be difficult to determine a cause.

Rick Ahmed, owner of Dream Sports Center, said he just wants to know the bottom line. His facility has sports activities for kids, and he said his business took a hit.

"People didn't sign up (for sports) for a time after the fire until they felt more comfortable," he said.

"I guess the cause right now doesn't matter to me," he added. "What does matter is that they don't come back."

EQ is fighting a proposal by state environmental regulators to take away its permit for the facility. Officials held a public hearing on that proposal in April.

Town officials have indicated they would fight any plans for EQ to rebuild.

An EQ company spokesperson was unavailable for comment Monday evening.

The Chemical Safety Board doesn't issue fines or citations. It makes recommendations to regulatory agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency.