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Our Opinion: Incidents at Eramet a concern


Despite assurances from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and Eramet officials, some area citizens remain concerned about two recent incidents at the plant.

Twice in the last two weeks molten liquid manganese burned through a furnace when it shouldn’t have. No one was injured, and the company isn’t required to report such incidents to the state, but it’s understandable that residents of the area are concerned about any unintended spill or release.

The Times called about the incidents because reporters heard calls go out over the police scanner for local fire departments to respond to the plant as precaution. Were it not for the scanner traffic, the newspaper would not have been notified of the incidents.

There’s additional information about the first incident detailed on the Ohio Citizen Action Web site. In an interview, Christina Wieg of the EPA says she has learned Eramet plans a maintenance outage later in the year at which time it will replace the shell of the furnace. In the meantime, she said, infrared cameras will monitor the inside of the furnace to detect any weaknesses in the furnace shell.

Still, our concern is the unknown. Could more burn-throughs occur? Could they escalate in their severity? Could workers or others be at risk?

It’s disconcerting to hear something like a burn-through occurring because maintenance is needed. One would hope a corporation like Eramet has the technology and the resources to know when maintenance is needed and make sure it’s done before such accidents occur.

We urge Eramet to step up its maintenance plans if necessary. Some residents have expressed concern that these burn-throughs of the furnace might be indicative of maintenance issues elsewhere, too.

Residents of Washington County, and Wood County, W.Va., need to feel assured that an industrial plant like Eramet is doing everything it possibly can to prevent any accident, no matter how small. Wieg, of the EPA, said Eramet is conducting an investigation as to why the burn-throughs occurred and she has requested a copy of that report for the EPA. We would expect both the company, and the EPA, to make that report available to the public as well.

 

 

 






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