Ohio EPA: ‘No issues’ at Brimfield site

Joe Shearer, Jenelle Maddox

Residents in nearby neighborhood cautiously optimistic

WATCH a video about the fire at the Puritan Systems, Inc. plant.

The site of the rubber recycling facility that burned three weeks ago is not a threat to nearby residents or the environment, according to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. An estimated 350,000 pounds of rubber burned at the Puritan Systems, Inc. plant near Interstate Highway 76 in Brimfield.

On-Scene Coordinator Reggie Brown, who is part of the Division of Emergency and Remedial Response of the EPA and was at the scene, said once the fire was extinguished, the site became “stable” and would remain so unless the rubber began burning.

“As far as anything left at the site or anything that might be now leaving or harming public health and safety, it’s not occurring because the fire is out,” Brown said. “Part of the reason the evacuation was held until the fire was completely extinguished was to make sure that no one would have the potential to breathe the smoke of this fire.”

He added that although firefighters used about 1 million gallons of water and 450 gallons of Class A foam – which is harmful to fish – it was contained and not allowed to enter nearby waterways.

The only other major environmental issue regarding the fire is the removal of the rubber, which can be recycled or sold. If the owner does not take care of it, the EPA can step in and help the owner properly dispose of it, Brown said.

Nearby residents who were evacuated the night of the fire said even though the building was so close, they generally weren’t worried about any potential health issues.

“I can’t smell anything, so I assume there’s nothing terrible going on,” said Richard Vardaris, who teaches part-time at Kent State. “I was really pretty impressed with how fast the (firefighters) and police got here. It was a minute, maybe, after I noticed the fire.”

Clint Hazelett, who was also evacuated, said he had smelled the burned rubber since the incident, most notably the evening the remnants of Hurricane Ike tore through Kent and other parts of Ohio.

“There’s been a couple of days . that the odor was very bad,” Hazelett said. “I’m too old to be concerned about my health, but there’s young people (living) around here.”

One resident who didn’t hear the knock on her door to evacuate was Kathy Turnure.

“We spent the night here, come to find out the next morning . that we should’ve been evacuated at midnight the night before,” Turnure said. “I had gotten sick during the night. I guess the level of cyanide was so high in the air around here . (The police) said they knocked on everyone’s doors, but the dogs didn’t bark and nobody heard them.”

Even after breathing in the polluted air, Turnure said she isn’t very worried about her health or the environment.

“I think everything’s fine, now,” Turnure said. “They said they drained the nitrogen tanks. That was a concern for sure, and there’s no propane left.

“It was kind of scary, but hopefully, we’ll all be healthy for a while,” she said with a laugh.

The EPA will continue monitoring the situation at the site until the water is free of foam and the rubber is removed.

Contact public affairs reporter Joe Shearer at [email protected]. Public affairs reporter Jenelle Maddox contributed to this report.