Zeon plant stabilized after chemical reaction prompts evacuation


by WHAS11


Posted on August 1, 2012 at 9:11 AM

Updated Wednesday, Aug 1 at 2:24 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- Emergency crews were able to fully contain a chemical reaction around 11:30 a.m. at the Zeon Chemical plant which prompted an evacuation of several workers Wednesday morning.

“During the course of operation we had two incompatible materials mixed in error,” said Bill Simpson with Zeon Chemical.

Simpson says about 11 gallons of peroxide was mistakenly mixed with mercaptan, which is a sulfur-containing organic compound. Officials say the reaction can cause inhalation problems to humans.

“Because of that, as a preventive measure we evacuated the building,” said Simpson.

About 35 people had to evacuate the contaminated area around 8:20 a.m. at the Zeon Chemical plant on Bells Lane, a company that makes synthetic rubber.

Officials say the gas never escaped from the contaminated area, which is described as being a room 20 feet wide and 20 feet long. They also say there was no reason to evacuate residents in the Rubbertown area.

“There is no environmental problems and we have Louisville Metro Heath on scene,” said Chief Fred George, with the Lake Dreamland Fire Department.

Ricky Harris has lived in the Rubbertown area for 11 years and was concerned there was something much worse happening in the area when he saw the fleet of emergency crews outside the plant.

“I wanted to know what’s going on,” says Harris. “Should I go? Should I stay? Sometimes they don’t sound the alarm.”

Investigators still do not know if the chemical mix-up was human or mechanical error. Nobody was hurt from the initial chemical reaction, but two Zeon personnel who were trying to contain the reaction were taken to the hospital for heat related illnesses.
MetroSafe did send a Code Red alert via email, text and phone. Click here to sign up for Code Red Alerts or call MetroSafe 311.

SKY11 was over the scene, click here to view photos.