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Leaking Tank Emptied, Evacuation Order Lifted

November 15, 1985

MALDEN, W.Va. (AP) _ Chemical plant workers wearing protective suits and using specially lined equipment siphoned a corrosive liquid from a leaking tank, allowing authorities to cancel an evacuation order that forced thousands of people from their homes.

An estimated 3,500 houses in Malden, Rand and the Kanawha City section of Charleston were ordered cleared at 1:40 p.m. Thursday when crews began pumping 2,000 gallons of liquid bromine from the leaking storage tank into a specially designed truck.

The evacuation order was lifted at 6:58 p.m. after the truck was dispatched to El Dorado, Ark., where the shipment originated, said Kanawha County Sheriff’s Department Lt. D.E. Drennen.

Authorities said they ordered the evacuation as a precaution because of the highly corrosive nature of the bromine.

″This chemical is so corrosive you can’t put it in a standard tank as we know it. ... Better safe than sorry,″ said sheriff’s Lt. Larry Mullins.

Officials closed U.S. 60 through Rand during the transfer of the substance to the truck. The area was cordoned off, but a few residents chose not to leave and some of them casually did chores as authorities scrambled preparing for the transfer.

The foul-smelling chemical began leaking Wednesday from a jet on a 4,000- gallon tank at the J.Q. Dickinson and Co. plant, said plant manager Roger Hovey. The chemical irritates mucous membranes, he said.

Classes at five schools were canceled for Thursday. The area wasn’t evacuated until Thursday because the danger increased when the bromine was transferred, Mullins said.

Bromine, used to make photographic chemicals and dye, becomes unstable when it comes in contact with moisture such as humidity, he said.

One person suffered eye burns when the leak began, authorities said, but no other injuries were reported.

Many Rand residents who left their homes said they were unconcerned about the hazard. Juanita Beard brought a backgammon board with her and spent much of Thursday afternoon at Du Pont High School, losing to neighbor Ada Johnson.

″I’m glad they had us leave, even though they said there was no emergency,″ Beard said. ″I wasn’t going to stay there to find out.″

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