News-Sentinel staff, wire reports
Friday, February 6, 2015 - 7:02 pm
A fire and explosion at a Warsaw plant Friday injured eight people and led to hazardous chemicals going into Winona Lake.
Warsaw Chemical Co., 2325 E. Durbin St., had a fire followed by an explosion that ruptured tanks containing potentially hazardous chemicals at around 10:55 a.m. A passing Warsaw City police officer heard the blast and called for assistance, according to a Department of Natural Resources news release. Lt. Kip Shuter of the Warsaw Police Department said five Warsaw City Waste Water Treatment workers and two firefighters complained of burning eyes and lungs after responding to the fire. One Warsaw Chemical employee is also being treated for burns on his hands. They were treated at Kosciusko Community Hospital for chemical inhalation and skin irritation. The exact cause of the fire is unknown, according to the release.
An unknown amount of chemicals, mostly methanol, got into the storm drains and into Winona Lake, turning the lake and snow blue and green from the dyes in the chemicals. It is believed thousands of gallons of chemical and water mix got into the lake, according to the DNR.
The ice on Winona Lake was significantly thinned by the methanol run-off and Indiana Conservation officers suggest that anglers stay off the ice and not eat any fish from the lake until further notice. The effect on the fish and wildlife is unknown. No fish or wildlife were seen to be dead or in distress.
It took about three hours to fully extinguish the fire, during which some 50 homes and businesses within 1,000 feet of the plant were evacuated. The evacuation was lifted around 3:30 p.m.
Departments from the Elkhart County Fire Dept. Hazmat team, Clay Fire of St. Joseph Co., Warsaw City Fire Dept., Winona Lake Fire Dept., Indiana Dept. of Environmental Management, Homeland Security, Environmental Remediation Services, Warsaw and Winona Lake Police Depts., and many others descended on the scene to fight the blaze and environmental contamination.
Environmental Remediation Services of Fort Wayne will be using large, portable air compressors to add large amounts of oxygen into the lake to evaporate the contaminants and aid the fish and wildlife in the lake.