Fire Damages PA Battery Recycling Plant

Wednesday, November 11, 2015 @ 10:11 AM gHale

Production continued Monday after a fire destroyed a portion of the Inmetco battery recycling plant in Lawrence County, PA, officials said.

“Half the building where the fire originated collapsed on top of the product they had in that building, and it’s all in 55-gallon drums,” said Ellwood City fire Chief Rick Myers. “I believe this stuff will burn for quite some time before it will actually go out.”

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Myers said the fire started in the rear of a battery storage facility on the property and workers notified the guard shack, which called the fire department. The building is a storage area for various types of batteries which end up recycled including lithium, nickel cadmium and lead acid batteries. Myers said lithium was an issue because it cannot end up extinguished with normal amounts of water but he said the company had resources on site to deal with the chemical.

The state Department of Environmental Protection was doing air monitoring throughout Sunday, Myers said. Inmetco officials will notify the fire department if the blaze spreads, Myers said, but he anticipates it will burn out without spreading.

Five firefighters ended up transported to Ellwood City Hospital for non-serious injuries. Four were later treated and released Sunday night, he said.

“We just want everybody to know that at no time was there anybody in danger in terms of the substances that were burning,” he said.

People did not have to evacuate, he said. A Lawrence County emergency medical services official said there is no public health hazard but nearby residents ended up advised to stay indoors and keep windows and doors closed until the smoke cleared.

“It can be a respiratory irritant,” Myers said, referring to smoke coming from the site.

The call came in at 8:54 a.m., according to the Ellwood City Fire Department. The fire ended up contained to the building of origin by about 10:40 a.m., Myers said.

Inmetco, a subsidiary of Horsehead Holdings Corp., specializes in recycling metals from batteries and hazardous wastes.

In March, Inmetco announced a $10 million expansion of the Ellwood City plant to increase capacity by 15 percent and meet increased demand for its steel waste and battery recycling services.

The project was on target to wrap up next year.

There was a fire at the plant in October 2012, which took firefighters from six companies about four hours to extinguish.