City leaders express concern over a recent spill at Verona, Mo. plant

Published: Apr. 19, 2022 at 5:34 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 20, 2022 at 7:52 AM CDT
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VERONA, Mo. - City leaders and residents in Verona expressed concerns after an Environmental Emergency report noted 1,200 pounds of ethylene oxide spilled at the BCP Ingredients.

Ethylene oxide is a dangerous carcinogen. Exposure can cause health problems. The ingredient is used primarily to produce other chemicals, including antifreeze but has other uses too.

Verona City Clerk Laura Hazelwood got an anonymous call Tuesday, April 12, from a person claiming to work at BCP Ingredients. They said there had been a spill on Friday, April 8.

“Everyone was notified about this spill except Verona,” Hazelwood says.

Without the call from the anonymous source, Hazelwood believes that residents and officials wouldn’t know about the spill. DNR and BCP Ingredients notified Lawrence County Emergency Management Director Grant Selvey about the incident. According to the report, there were no injuries and no danger to the public. The report says the ethylene oxide evaporated.

A statement from BCP Ingredients to KY3 News explains the incident:

On April 8th, we discovered a leak in the system that transfers liquid ethylene oxide from rail cars to a storage tank.

Upon discovering the leak, we immediately shut down the entire transfer system and reported the situation to all relevant authorities, including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), National Response Center (NRC), State Emergency Response Commission (SERC), and Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC).

The ethylene oxide immediately evaporated into the air. Therefore, no employees were exposed, and there is no health risk to the local community, as confirmed by the Lawrence County Emergency Services Center. However, to prevent such a leak from happening again, we conducted a root-cause analysis that determined the cause of the leak to be a valve that malfunctioned on the off-loading device. The equipment was immediately repaired to ensure we had eliminated the source of the leak.

“Typically, you don’t notify back and forth on a spill unless it’s cause for concern,” Selvey explains.

But Hazelwood is quite convinced there shouldn’t be a concern.

“No one seems to be concerned about the fact that this stuff went into the air and people were breathing it,” Hazelwood says.

DNR officials say federal law allows a certain amount they deem safe ethylene oxide to be released into the air. The amount fell below those levels. That amount released is actually below how much the plant releases daily. Daily the plant releases under the amount federally allowed.

“Whenever DNR tells me there’s no cause of concern and no reason for me to do any contacts,” Selvey goes on.

Those in Verona don’t want to be the last ones to know if it does.

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