published Monday, July 30th, 2012

Evacuation continues in Chattooga plant fire

Black smoke billows above flames at a plastics recycling plant near Summerville, Ga. The blaze started Friday evening.
Black smoke billows above flames at a plastics recycling plant near Summerville, Ga. The blaze started Friday evening.
Photo courtesy The Summerville News

Chattooga County authorities and the EPA won't decide before this morning whether it's safe for residents who live near the site of a monster recycling plant fire to return home.

Chattooga Emergency Management Agency Chief Eddie Henderson said Sunday the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will monitor the quality of the air in the area overnight and meet today to decide if the evacuation will be lifted. The EPA has been monitoring the air quality since early Saturday morning.

Sunday evening, more than 48 hours after the fire began at the plastics recycling plant, Henderson said it was contained and the situation had improved from Saturday.

"We still have some smoke in the area, and some of it can be nasty when the wind picks up," he said. "But we don't have the situation today that we had Saturday."

Fire crews along with the EPA still are working on a process Henderson called "fuel separation." Crews are removing the plastic from the building and then dousing it with water.

Henderson estimated that about 400 firefighters from Chattooga County and the tri-state area have been battling the blaze since it was reported late Friday afternoon.

"I'd like to thank all of the crews from the tri-state area for their help," he said. "I'd also like to thank the general public for being cooperative during this time."

People living within a quarter-mile of the plant on three sides and a half-mile on the east, or downwind, side, were evacuated Friday as a precaution. The blazing, melting and scorching plastics emit toxic compounds to the air.

It is recommended that residents within a two-mile radius limit their time outdoors until firefighters get the smoke plume under control, Henderson said. Those with respiratory problems also are asked to leave or stay away, he said.

The fire broke out at the Berryton Recycling Complex on Back Berryton Road on Friday afternoon after workers left the plant.

about Rachel Bunn...

Rachel Bunn is originally from Ellijay, Ga., and graduated from the University of Georgia with degrees in magazines and history. While at UGA, she wrote for the student magazine UGAzine, served as news editor for the student newspaper, The Red & Black, and spent a semester studying British history at Oxford University in Oxford, England. She has previously worked at The Rockdale Citizen in Conyers, Ga., and The Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the ...

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