Local News

Apex, Some Residents Wait for EQ Reimbursements

Posted September 6, 2007 6:50 p.m. EDT

— Eleven months after a chemical fire forced nearly half of Apex residents from their homes, some people are still trying to be reimbursed for expenses incurred during the evacuation.

An Oct. 5 explosion at the Environmental Quality Industrial Services plant in Apex created a fire that burned for almost a day. Firefighters delayed fighting the fire because they didn't know what chemicals might be involved, and town officials ordered about 17,000 people to evacuate from surrounding neighborhoods because of the potential for toxic fumes in the smoke from the fire.

EQ promised to reimburse residents for the inconvenience, and a company spokeswoman said Thursday that hundreds of claims for food and lodging expenses have been repaid.

Larger bills are being sorted out by an insurance company, the spokeswoman said.

Norman Maarshchalkerweerd is among those still waiting for a check from EQ. The day after the explosion, he said he started feeling ill and went to WakeMed for treatment.

"My eyes and my throat and my tongue started burning. (I had) a very strange sensation on my tongue, like little pricks almost, very sort of acidic. I had some sensation on my eyes," Maarshchalkerweerd said.

His visit to the hospital resulted in a $1,500 bill, and he said creditors are after him because he hasn't gotten the money from EQ to pay the bill.

"I think it's just the principle of the matter. I think we should be reimbursed in a timely manner," he said.

The EQ spokeswoman said other Apex residents have filed medical claims for reimbursement, but she couldn't say how many.

Residents aren't the only ones waiting to be paid. Apex officials billed the company $200,000 to pay for overtime expenses from the evacuation and for cleaning up the site.

Town Manager Bruce Radford wouldn't comment Thursday on the reimbursement delay.

Some residents said they understand the delay in settling large claims, but others said the company should pay for the trouble it caused.

"I imagine a lot of people probably did file claims, and that would probably take a while to sort through all that mess," Natalie Visage said.

"They should be compensated because, if their medical bills are affecting their livelihood, they need to be paid and compensated for their losses," Luther van Deusen said.

The state Division of Waste Management also fined EQ about $550,000 in March for hazardous waste violations before the fire. The company has appealed the fine.