Why didn’t Eastman issue an alert?

KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) — At approximately 7:27 a.m. Monday morning, a steam line at the Eastman Chemical Company’s Kingsport site failed, injuring five workers and sending unknown materials into a nearby neighborhood as the line continued to vent nearby high pressure steam. .

At 8:52 a.m., an hour and 25 minutes later, the company’s first advisory was released to the media:

The morning of Monday, January 31, around 7:30 a.m. Eastman experienced a high pressure steam line failure at our Kingsport manufacturing site resulting in vibrations felt by the surrounding community and loud noises from a constant and heavy release of steam. The Eastman Fire Department is assessing the situation with the assistance of the Kingsport Fire Department. We are working to gather more details and will provide more information as soon as possible.

Eastman Chemical Company, 8:53 a.m. Monday morning.

Later in the day, as more details became available, Eastman representatives updated their information for the public, adding that five employees were “slightly” injured in the blast and that no fires started. was produced in the establishment.

“The steam line failure which resulted in loud noises and vibrations also caused the release of small particle debris which can occur during utility line disruptions,” a 10:05 a.m. news release said. “This can be seen in the immediate community near the site.”

Material found raining down in the Green Acres neighborhood, about 1,000 feet from the northeast edge of the facility, had deposited a layer of dust and debris on several blocks in the area.

“There was a lot of misinformation on social media today, and we wanted to make sure we were sharing correct information about what happened at today’s event,” the director said. of corporate communications Betty Payne at a press briefing around 3 p.m. Monday afternoon. “Firstly the loud noise and steam was caused by a failure of the high pressure steam line, five injuries were reported and we are grateful that all have been treated and released. The debris that resulted from this incident are currently being lab tested by our people here at Eastman, we are also sending them offsite for third party lab analysis, it will take us some time to get those results, and we will share them with you when we have them.

Although the exact composition of the material was unknown at the time, Eastman representatives said they did not expect any impact on their immediate neighbors. At Monday’s press conference, it was confirmed that on-site employees had been asked to shelter in their areas of operations. Outside the facility, no warning other than first responder sirens was given to residents across the street.

“We did not set up a community shelter, as there was no danger to the surrounding community,” Payne said during the briefing. “We are no longer using on-site sirens to notify the community, anyone in the area should ensure they are registered to receive reverse 911 notifications from the Town of Kingsport.”

Kingsport/Sullivan County Reverse 911 system, which replaced the old siren system used on-site at Eastman, allows community members to subscribe to alerts that affect the public. The system requires registration by the area resident, rather than automatic inclusion in the vein of federal weather messages and AMBER alerts.

“There was no notification [that] came out because there was no concern for the community,” Payne said.

Material initially described as “debris that may occur during power line disturbances” was later assessed and found to contain asbestos, a material classified as a “well recognized health hazard” by OSHA and EPA.

“We would definitely encourage our community members not to speculate on the source of this,” Vice President of Operations Excellence and Transformation Michelle Caveness said before the material was assessed. “But there is a phone number that we encourage community team members to call.”

At the time of the conference, the line in question, 229-CARES, told residents in the affected areas that they were eligible for a free car wash at Ultimate Shine locations in Kingsport. At 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, Ultimate Shine staff said tickets were still eligible. The Eastman Community Cares line does not mention tickets after a 10:50 p.m. update on Monday.

At 10:50 p.m. Monday evening, a final notice was issued for the day, stating that “at least some of the material damaged during the event contained asbestos”.

Out of an abundance of caution, the statement said any debris found would be treated as if it contained asbestos until tested. On Tuesday morning, Eastman crews were spotted tying down residences as they cleared debris from the area. Residents were told to leave the cleanup to equipped crews as they swept the area between Lincoln Road, John B. Dennis Highway and the Eastman Road Viaduct.

About Bradley J. Bridges

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