Area near West Virginia plant evacuated after chemicals mix

December 23, 2019 GMT

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. (AP) — An area surrounding a wastewater treatment plant in West Virginia was evacuated Monday in response to an accidental mixture of chemicals, police said.

A one-half-mile radius in Martinsburg was evacuated after the chemicals mixed during a tanker offload, Berkeley County Public Safety said on Twitter.

Two people who were at the scene were taken to a hospital, said Lora Lipscomb, public information officer for West Virginia Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, but she was not sure whether they were injured or taken as a precaution.

A school set up as a shelter had 153 people early Monday afternoon, she said.

Officials went door-to-door and wore gas masks as they notified homes and businesses of the evacuation, news outlets reported.

Gov. Jim Justice ordered West Virginia’s State Emergency Operations Center to partial activation in response. State and local services responded as well as units from several Maryland locations.

Authorities were investigating the chemicals’ effects, Lipscomb said.

Emissions from the plant should cause only “mild respiratory irritation” without delayed or long-term effects, Berkeley County Public Safety said. Anyone with nausea and vomiting was advised to seek immediate medical attention.

The agency was monitoring the gas and sent a chemical release response team to neutralize it.

“The evacuation will be in place until further analysis can be completed to confirm the dispersal of the chemical, and that the area is safe to enter,” the agency said.