The EQ Emergency Response Division responded to a devastating chemical plant explosion and fire in Columbus, Wisconsin. The fire consumed most of the plant’s warehouse, production and packaging areas. The incident caused surrounding homes and businesses to be evacuated. The EQ ER group, lead by national ER director Scott Kluska, immediately responded to the situation with EQ’s high hazard emergency response team dispatched to the scene as well. EQ supported the decontamination and rapid intervention team (RIT) and investigation entry support.
EQ’s ER team worked along side representatives from the chemical company, local fire department, WI Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Health and many others units of government. The fire impacted an area of the facility that contained as many as 1,500 different chemicals, some of which included highly hazardous materials.
Initial reconnaissance was done to determine high hazardous issues and environmental concerns. Site fire water/rain runoff containment was established in order to prevent further environmental impact. Numerous chemical and physical reactions were occurring that required stabilization by the EQ team. The majority of the reactions were neutralized through the application of lime utilizing small track excavators and skid steers.
EQ’s team, along with personnel from EQ’s partner the Center for Toxicology & Environmental Health (CTEH), identified thousands of broken, unlabeled and distressed containers within the fire damaged structure. EQ utilized its Ahura FirstDefender XLS. The FirstDefender is an all-optical Raman system designed for use by first responders, homeland security, military, law enforcement and forensic chemistry personnel. EQ is one of only a few private environmental and emergency response companies in North America to own a FirstDefender system. This unit allowed the team to identify chemicals and chemical mixtures without testing them in a laboratory. Immediate in-field results enable the teams to categorize the materials and develop cleanup protocols.
As a result of EQ’s expertise and efficiency, we were able to assist our customer in beginning operation within 20 days of the fire and soon after achieved a record production month. The executive vice president of the company described EQ as a very valuable company during the incident. “EQ did exactly what was needed, safely and on-time.”