Strange Chemical Smell In Parts Of NJ [VIDEO]
A fire at the at the Rohm and Haas plant in Bristol, Pennsylvania early Wednesday morning caused a chemical smell in parts of New Jersey along the Delaware River that has lingered for much of the day.
The odor that began early Wednesday has remained in the air as crews at the plant clean and removed materials transfer chemicals from storage tanks to tanker trucks creating additional odors the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection tells the Courier Times of Bucks County.
The DEP says their test of the air has not detected any dangerous air exposure levels.
Calls into New Jersey 101.5 began this morning with reports of an odor in Trenton and in Hamilton.
Tweets to #NJ1015 report the odor in Freehold and Cranbury and north along the Route 1 corridor through Princeton Junction, Plainsboro, South Brunswick & East Brunswick and Woodbridge.
Where are you smelling the odor? Let us know via Twitter at #NJ1015
Winds this morning were light from the southeast bringing the smell across into the Garden State. Residents close to the plant in Pennsylvania say they did not smell the odors.
AN ODOR ON THE RIDE TO WORK
Michael Chianese of Hamilton says he first noticed the chemical smell around 8 a.m. this morning.
"It's like an acetone, like an acidy kind of smell," Chianese says. He says he stopped at the 7-Eleven this morning in Hamilton and customers at the store were talking about it. At first, he wasn't sure what the smell was. "I was smelling around my car, I'm smelling around my shirt." Chianese says, "I'm in Trenton right now, it's here, it's in the air and I smell it."
Manny DeLeon from Trenton is upset that Trenton and Mercer County officials didn't alert residents about the smell. He says, "What's the use in having our alert system if they're not going to warn us of things like this?"
DeLeon says the fumes had his wife coughing this morning and he's worried about the possible health effects of the fumes. "I have to go to work, my eyes are burning, I've got a headache and it's getting worse," DeLeon says.
Lightning from overnight storms hit two storage tanks, starting the fire which was out by 7AM. Fire fighthers from both Bucks County and New Jersey remain on scene putting out hot spots.
THE CHEMICALS CAUSING THE ODOR
Dow Chemical, which recently purchased the plant, identified the burning chemicals in a press release issued around 6AM as ethyl acetate and butyl acetate . They're used in making acrylic coating products, which go into paints.
"At approximately 3:35 a.m., the Rohm and Haas Bristol Plant experienced a lightning strike, which hit two storage tanks at its Bristol coatings plant. The holding tanks contain two different materials, ethyl acrylate and butyl acrylate. Onsite emergency response along with area fire companies have responded to safely put out the fire and bring the material under control. Material that escaped the tanks is contained in surround dikes with no anticipated impact to the community."
Dow advised that "Any individual that feels adverse health effects as a result of exposure should promptly seek medical attention. Odors may persist while the material is removed."
The community was advised by the Bristol Township Emergency Management to move indoors if the smell is bothersome and to close windows & doors. The Bucks County Office of Emergency Management issued a statement that hazardous materials crews and emergency personnel had been recalled from the scene by 12noon.
Officials said the air should continue to clear as the day progresses, and residents — who had been advised to stay inside with the doors and windows closed — were being told they could resume normal outdoor activities. Complaints about the smell, however, continued into the afternoon on Twitter and Facebook.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that area emergency rooms were not reporting any spike in people seeking treatment related to breathing or other issues.
A community hotline has been established to provide site updates at 215-781-4600. As a precaution, non-essential employees have been released from the site for the day.
As a precaution, school officials in Bristol cancelled classes for the day whiile the US Postal Service cancelled mail delivery.
Officials at the Bristol Fire Department confirmed to WTXF TV that a member of their fire police died after suffering a heart attack. Dave Wintz was taken from the scene to Aria-Torresdale Hospital where he was pronounced dead.
TRACKING THE SMELL
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Leanne Vuksanic and the Associated Press contributed to this story.