Chemical release is not first incident this year at Hopewell plant

Posted at 6:45 PM, Oct 03, 2012
and last updated 2012-10-03 18:45:13-04

HOPEWELL, Va. (WTVR) – Virginia's Department of Environmental Quality says it is waiting on the owner of a plant to tell them what caused a chemical release in Hopewell earlier this week.

In a statement released by Honeywell, the plant's owner, said it is too soon to tell what caused the release.

"Honeywell is conducting an investigation into the event that occurred Monday and it would be premature to speculate on any causes at this time," said Honeywell in a news release.

CBS 6 News has learned the DEQ has investigated three other incidents at the Honeywell facility this year.

In fact, the DEQ said  Honeywell has been fined nearly $14,000 for a cooling water discharge violation at the plant. The agency is also still working to resolve two air violations.

The facility has been in constant operation in Hopewell since 1928. Part of the manufacturing process is a byproduct of Nitrogen Oxide gas, which is released into the air in permitted levels.

However, an orange cloud was seen passing over the city on Monday, which prompted the plant to activate emergency measures, including contacting the Hopewell Fire Department.

"Anytime you have an incident when there are no injuries, no one did not have to be evacuated, then I'm satisfied with it," Hopewell Fire Chief John Tunstall said.

While an investigation into what caused the release is ongoing, a citywide training exercise scheduled months ago for Oct. 11 will help put Monday's incident into perspective.

"During this exercise, we will be looking at where our weaknesses are," Tunstall said. "We will go back and look at what happened Monday, what happened in other incidents."

It has not been determined if human error or equipment malfunction caused the leak.