Community in arms after chemical incident at Kanawha County, WV - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

Community in arms after chemical incident at Kanawha County, WV plant

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Community concerns are being raised after a chemical leak at a plant in Kanawha County, WV went unreported for two hours.

The leak happened at Catalyst Refiners in Institute, WV but no one in the community was notified.

"Having our young children here, that's not acceptable on their part," said Helen Gist, a preschool teacher at the WVSU Preschool.

Gist told 13 News she was upset over not being notified not only because of her own safety, but for the safety of her 15 preschoolers. Gist's classroom is steps away from the plant.

"We didn't see any movement, we didn't see anything or hear anything. So that's bad not to have been notified of that," she said. 

The leak happened at 11:20 Tuesday morning, the exact time Gist and her students played outside.  Close to 1,000 pounds of nitric acid was released causing the plant and nearby Bayer Crop Sciences to evacuate.

The community was never notified.

"We absolutely don't want that to be something we have to call a parent and tell them that their child died or is in a severe situation because of the negligence of a company that should have been following their guidelines and procedures," said Gist.

A haunting thought for Catherine Saul, a mother of three, who lived less than one mile from the Bayer Crop Science explosion in 2008.

"It felt like someone ran their car into the apartment building I was staying in. It shook everything," she said when describing the explosion. "If that would have happened this time, had we not know, we wouldn't have been able to even get to our children."

The WVSU preschool is located only steps away from the plant so if something goes wrong they have procedures in place, but if incidents aren't reported the preschool can't follow those procedures.

"I don't care how little the spill was.  If it was little enough for them to evacuate, it should have been enough for them to call," she said. 

After the 2008 Bayer Crop Sciences explosion, new laws were made to address accidents in plants. Starting in 2009, all chemicals spills were required to be reported to authorities within 15 minutes.

The leak at Catalyst Refiners went unreported for two hours.

"If it was some type of dangerous chemical that was airborne, we wouldn't know until it was too late," said Saul. 

13 News made several attempts made to contact officials at Catalyst Refiners.  As of the writing of this article they had not responded.