By Carolina Curiel (ScrapMonster Author)
November 10, 2015 07:11:19 AM
The state Department of Environmental Protection is investigating a stubborn, smoky fire at Inmetco, a lithium battery recycling facility in Ellwood City, that began Sunday morning and was still burning in small, isolated spots Monday.Persistent fire investigated at battery recycling plant
The state Department of Environmental Protection is investigating a stubborn, smoky fire at Inmetco, a lithium battery recycling facility in Ellwood City, that began Sunday morning and was still burning in small, isolated spots Monday.
Melanie Williams, a DEP spokeswoman, said a member of the DEP emergency response team responded to the scene Sunday after reports of multiple lithium barrels on fire and explosions, and the department is continuing to assess the environmental impacts of the fire.
Ellwood City Fire Chief Rick Myers said the fire, which attracted 17 fire companies from three counties, destroyed the company’s warehouse where large lithium batteries and a variety of other materials and maintenance equipment were stored. The fire companies were hampered in putting out the blazing batteries because lithium reacts violently with water.
“We used water on the warehouse but had to let the lithium burn itself out,” Chief Myers said Monday afternoon. There were still active fires Monday morning in the lithium because water can’t put it out, he said.
Four firefighters were treated for minor skin irritations, possibly related to the lithium coming into contact with the water from fire hoses, he said. Lithium is flammable, reacts with water, and can produce toxic smoke and corrosive fumes of lithium hydroxide. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommends a dry chemical fire suppressant for putting out lithium fires.
Mr. Myers said a “command group” consisting of the DEP, the Lawrence County Public Safety Department and several fire chiefs, including himself, made the decision not to evacuate nearby residences.
“The DEP was on the scene and sampling air and water regularly, and at no point was there an issue,” he said.
Ali Alavi, an Inmetco spokesman, said the company is still assessing the damage and investigating what caused the fire but will continue normal operations in its other buildings. He said the facility employs 92, but a much smaller workforce was at the facility Sunday. None were injured.
The fire was not the first at the Inmetco facility. In October 2012, a fire broke out in the main building of the metals recycling plant that resulted in calls to eight fire companies in three counties. In December 2011, a fire occurred in the receiving area where batteries were stored that again attracted eight fire companies and took three hours to extinguish.
Courtesy : www.post-gazette.com