Residents in a five-block area of St. Clairsville were evacuated Friday morning, after a gas leak at the city’s waste water treatment plant.
At first, it was thought to be chlorine, then they discovered it was sulfur dioxide, but none-the-less; years of emergency planning paid off.
The call came in before 9:30 a.m. for a gas leak at the Waste water Treatment Plant, “We were met with a couple employees coming out, confirming a leak,” said Cumberland Trail Fire Chief, John Slavik.
St. Clairsville Superintendent of Utilities, Scott Brown said, “Sulfur dioxide in high concentrations can also be an irritant to both your lungs and your skin.”
“Two of our employees were in the area. They have been checked. Appears everything is fine with them,” said St. Clairsville Mayor, Terry Pugh.
They called out first responders, “More EMS units, hazardous materials unit from Neffs and a decontamination unit from Sunset Heights. All this had been preplanned years ago. We deconned the first couple employees and sent them off to the hospital,” said Slavik.
They evacuated houses in a five-block area, “We did that through the code red system and through 911 and through the Belmont County Sheriff’s Office. They sent about five deputies to assist us going door to door,” said St. Clairsville Police Chief, Jeff Henry.
They gave people the option to either leave or shelter in place, shutting off the air intakes, “There was an elderly couple that needed to be evacuated by the fire department and taken to the rec center. But most of the people took their pets and left,” Henry said.
Emergency Management Agency Director, Dave Ivan, notified the EPA, and with a storm rolling in, “Also made notification with the National Weather Service to get any type of weather updates. We needed to know where the wind was coming from, at what speed,” Ivan said.
The wind was blowing from downtown, toward the plant, pushing the gas away, “It was actually coming out of the southwest which was a good thing,” Ivan said.
In the end, the leak was repaired, the employees were pronounced healthy and the police chief sounded the all clear. Those who chose to leave their homes were told to go to the JB Martin Recreation Center if they had no place else to go.