St. Clairsville Chemical leak leads to evacuations

St. Clairsville residents urges to flee area


Times Leader Staff Writer

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Multiple first responders converged on Legion Road in St. Clairsville on Friday morning, as reports came in about a chemical leak at a wastewater treatment plant.

Cumberland Trail Fire Chief John Slavik said that at about 9:30 a.m., his department received a call regarding an incident at the wastewater treatment plant in the vicinity of Legion Road.

Slavik said upon arrival, responding firefighters noticed a slight irritating and burning sensation on exposed skin, as well as a chemical smell in the air, causing them to radio from additional assistance from several different departments for a possible chlorine leak. Multiple units were soon on the scene to deal with the situation, including Cumberland Trail, the St. Clairsville Police Department, Belmont County Sheriff’s Office, and the Bethesda, Sunset Heights, Wolfhurst, and Colerain Volunteer Fire Departments, as Well as the Belmont County emergency Management Agency.

Mayor Terry Pugh and St. Clairsville City Wastewater Superintendent Scott Brown were also on scene to assess the situation; Brown said that two employees who were in the building were checked out by EMS personnel and were cleared medically, but were transported to area hospitals just to be safe.

After assessing the situation, Slavik recommended that residents in the area evacuate from their homes for their own safety, although the order was not mandatory. St. Clairsville Chief of Police Jeff Henry coordinated sheriff deputies and city employees to go door to door on Crisswill, Willinda, Millrose, Greentree and Pine Crest roads to inform residents of the situation; if they had nowhere else to go, residents could wait to return home at the recreation center 102 Fair St.

Shortly before noon, Slavik said that the leak was under control. The chemical in question was hydrogen sulfide, a byproduct of septic conditions present in treatment plants. Hydrogen sulfide is toxic and can serious effects on health if someone is exposed for prolonged periods. EMA Director Dave Ivan said that it was fortunate the leak was contained when it was, as a thunderstorm was moving into the area at around that time.

“It could have hindered the end result here,” Ivan said. “With that storm, you’d have increased wind speeds, and I’m not 100 percent sure what would have happened if that gas had mixed with rainwater. So thankfully we got it taken care of before that.”

After the leak was contained, and personnel determined the scene was safe, residents were allowed to return to their homes about 12:30 p.m. Slavik said. The situation could have been very scary, but all the departments and units responding knew exactly what to do and carried out their duties to the best of their abilities, making the whole operation run smoothly. Slavik said there were 37 people from the various departments responding to the scene, an impressive number for the time it occurred.

“Everyone there did a tremendous job,” Slavik said, praising the collaboration between departments. “I couldn’t have asked for more. We’re lucky no one was hurt, and we learned a lot of good things from the teamwork.”


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