It may be a while before it is known what was contained in a cloud of ash released into the atmosphere over the weekend at a hazardous medical waste incinerator in East Liverpool.
The debris caused an explosion at Heritage-Thermal Services plant that sent an ash cloud that descended on the area on Saturday. The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency took air and ash samples that will determine if the material is harmful.
There was still a few spots in town on Monday where the dust, which looked like a fine, gray powder, was still laying on cars and other things.
Neighbors of the Heritage-Thermal Services plant said a plume of ash and smoke floated away from the facility early Saturday afternoon, coating everything in its path. John Cramer said he and his wife were home at the time and he was sitting out on his front porch.
“You don’t know what’s going on. You don’t know what’s floating down here. It could be harmful chemicals, it might have been acid, dust from acid, ”cause they burn acid up there, which is very harmful. And she said it was in my hair from sitting out here and I immediately went in and washed my hair and stuff,” Cramer said.
A spokesman for the company said a buildup of ash and other materials fell into a vat of water, causing a steam explosion. The Ohio EPA will be analyzing some of the ash collected near the site to determine just what might be in it.
In the meantime, neighbors are being urged to rinse off anything that might have residue on it and to avoid coming into contact with it.
The plant is now shut down for its routine maintenance, and a company spokesman said the removal of ash buildup is part of that process.
Heritage-Thermal Services incinerates medical industrial waste by burning it at extreme temperatures. The smoke that leaves the stack is harmless when incinerated properly, officials said.
The company in a statement said the amount of debris that fell into the incinerator was too large for the ash-removal system to handle.