Fayette County “should be OK” when it comes to Chemours explosion

BELLE, WV (WOAY) – Kanawha County residents were left shaken by last night’s explosion while some Fayette County residents wonder how an explosion could affect their lives.

“I thought it was an earthquake and I’m like ‘do they have earthquakes here in West Virginia?'” said Richard Brisson, a new resident in a neighborhood near the plant. “The whole house was shaking and I thought a tree fell on the house. I had the kids in the bed and I didn’t know if I should take them out and evacuate them.”

Brisson’s wife Shannon Petry described a similar experience, saying she and her neighbors rushed outside to see large clouds of smoke over the plant.

“The neighbor said ‘everybody get in the house,” said Petry.

“That scared me even more because I know that there’s chemicals over there,” said Brisson. “It was a scary 15 minutes because we didn’t know what was in the air.”

Residents have expressed a variety of concerns, including what chemicals were involved, is the air safe to breathe and did anything contaminate the water.

“There were two different chemicals, we’ve been told,” said Kanawha County Emergency Management director C.W. Sigman. “The original chemical involved was chlorinated dry bleach, but it did break a methanol line or cause a spill of methanol that caught on fire. Most of the fire was from the methanol. There was probably a little bit of product that got into the river, but I’m not sure how much. The DEP is taking care of that.”

A risk of chlorine in the air prompted a stay inside order until early Wednesday morning. Officials say they now believe the chemical was never airborne, but some Fayette County residents still worry if they could have been at risk.

“[In the 1990s,] we did what’s called ‘worst case scenario,'” said Sigman. “A local resident asked ‘what’s the worst thing that could happen?’ Very few chemicals at the facility would reach Fayette County and it would have to be extreme conditions. Weather would have to be just right and [there must be] a large loss of chemicals. Fayette County should be okay.”

Locals are thankful it wasn’t the worst case scenario it could have been but are already thinking ahead in case it were to happen again.

“I’m probably going to have more of an evacuation plan, a bag set up just in case something like this ever happens again,” said Brisson.

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Kassie Simmons
Kassie Simmons joined the team in January 2019 as a weekend journalist. She graduated from Virginia Tech in just two and a half years with a BA in multimedia journalism. During her short time at Virginia Tech, she served as the editor for the university’s chapter of The Tab. Kassie was named the top reporter for The Tab at Virginia Tech on multiple occasions and made the list for the top 30 reporters for The Tab in the U.S. She also studied theater performance and minored in creative writing. Before coming to WOAY, Kassie interned at WSLS in Roanoke and the Tidewater Review in her hometown of West Point, Va. She has loved following breaking news since her childhood and has a passion for delivering the stories people care most about. Kassie is excited to be working in Southern West Virginia and looks forward to all the adventures ahead of her. You can follow her on Twitter at @KassieLSimmons and like her page on Facebook. If you have a story you think she should check out, send her an email at ksimmons@woay.com.