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Valve failure causes explosion, leak at Nitro facility

An explosion and an oil leak were reported at a Nitro industrial waste-handling facility Wednesday.

Valves failed Wednesday on two chemical storage tanks at a Nitro industrial waste-handling facility, causing an explosion and an oil leak that was contained within the operation’s spill-collection system, officials said.

A Kanawha County Metro 911 dispatcher said that at 2 p.m., a call came in reporting a loud boom and smoke in the area.

Kanawha County emergency services director Dale Petry said there was an explosion, but that there was no evidence of a fire.

Spirit Services is an environmental recycling firm that services the coal and natural gas industries. Its facility in Nitro offers services “in the collection of non-hazardous used oil, wastewater, drums of oily solids, oil filter drums, and non-hazardous oily solids,” according to its website.

Tom Aluise, a spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Protection, said that his agency learned of the incident when a reporter called to inquire about it.

After that, the DEP learned that there was “an explosion and a spill” at Spirit Services. The DEP dispatched an inspector to the scene, Aluise said.

“We’ve been told from officials with the facility that the material that spilled was totaled approximately 22,000 gallons of compressor station process water and used oil,” DEP communications director Kelley Gillenwater said later. “Apparently valves on two tanks failed. All the material was contained within secondary containment and is being recovered through the use of vacuum trucks.”

A librarian at the Nitro Public Library, which is just down the road from Spirit Services, said she heard the boom.

“It felt like the building shook a little,” she said.

Plant Road is the site of the Par Industrial Park, the home of the former Poca Blending, an affiliate of Freedom Industries, the company whose chemical leak contaminated the region’s drinking water in January.

In September 2011, Spirit Services agreed to pay $36,000 in fines in a settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, whose inspectors alleged the company did not have an appropriate spill control program at its oil processing facility in Williamsport, Md.

Gillenwater said that Spirit Services had not yet registered its storage tanks with DEP as part of the chemical tank safety law passed by the Legislature in response to the Freedom Industries spill. The registration deadline is Oct. 1.

Gillenwater said the company has 14 storage tanks at the site. The company did not have any chemical inventory forms on file with the state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, said agency spokesman T.D. Lively.

The Spirit Services facility is permitted by the DEP through a Clean Water Act “general permit,” under the agency’s industrial stormwater permitting program. The company’s permit was scheduled to expire in March 2014, but DEP extended it through Dec. 31, Gillenwater said.

Gillenwater said that the company applied for a new general permit last week, but that the application hasn’t been processed yet.

DEP officials could not find any record of agency inspections of the operation, but Gillenwater said that Spirit officials said they had the tanks privately inspected in 2011, and that they were scheduled to be inspected again in 2015.

Staff writer Rusty Marks contributed to this report. Reach David Gutman at, 304-348-5119 or follow @davidlgutman on Twitter. Reach Ken Ward Jr. at, 304-348-1702 or follow @KenWardJr on Twitter.

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