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Environmental Officials Find Dangerous Chemicals at Site of Plant Fire

December 17, 1985

OREGON, Wis. (AP) _ A number of dangerous substances have been found at the site of a chemical plant destroyed by fire, and the federal government will be asked to help clean up the area, a state official said today.

The fire and explosions at the Spectra-Chem Inc. plant Sunday night forced the evacuation of about 500 people in this south Wisconsin village. Twenty- seven residents, police officers and firefighters were treated for headaches, dizziness and nausea.

The area around the plant has been cordoned off, said Joe Brusca, a solid waste coordinator with the state Department of Natural Resources.

The department obtained a list of chemicals which were stored at the site in 50 55-gallon drums, and were turned into hazardous waste by the blaze, said Brusca.

″We were surprised,″ he said. ″There were a lot of chemicals that were volatile and hazardous.″ The list included methylene chloride, acetone, toluene, trichloroethylene, xylene and naptha.

The department will ask the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s emergency response team to assess the health and environmental hazards posed by the residue of the fire, Brusca said.

″There are still chemicals at the site and we don’t want them dumped just anywhere,″ he said.

Following the assessment, the department will give the plant owner, William Flynn, an opportunity to hire a company to clean it up, Brusca said.

Flynn said Spectra-Chem had not recylced any hazardous waste for more than a year.

The EPA denied the company a permit to store hazardous waste in May 1984.

Some of the chemicals may have been used by Oregon Pool Supply Co., which was in the same building as the recycling plant, Brusca said.

Traces of chemicals showed up in analyses of water from Bad Fish Creek, which is fed by tributaries flowing out of Oregon, but those traces have cleared up, he said.

The department is awaiting further test results to determine if a health- hazard warning should be issued, said Brusca.

Most of the contaminants were probably burned up or dissipated in the air, said Dr. Henry Anderson, a state Department of Health and Social Services environmental epidemiologist. But Anderson advised anyone with health problems to consult a doctor.