Cincinnati is no stranger to industrial accidents. They can and do happen here even though businesses, as well as city, state and federal governments spend immense resources to prevent them. What makes industrial accidents in Greater Cincinnati different is the commitment of our government employees, the ability of our communities to respond and clean up, and sometimes just plain old luck.
The first photo is from a dramatic fire in Reading, Ohio. Many departments responded to the fire and the smoke could be seen in from my house in Montgomery. During the fire a train of tank cars passed by the fire, probably less than 200 feet from the building. No tank cars exploded. This was just luck.
Check out the chemical plant behind the burned out building. The building operated a process that used explosive materials and there were several full tank cars unloading just before the fire. Plain old luck again.
All though I didn’t get called out for this fire, I spent the next day on site ensuring that the contractors cleaned the site up correctly. Years later the owner rebuilt the building and process, but could not meet the new source environmental standards and closed.
The photo below is the view from the front door of our office in Price Hill. In this case a drum reprocessing factory caught on fire and the sprinkler system did not work. Falling ashes started the mulch at our building on fire! I didn’t get called in to this one either, but about six hours into the fire, the warning sirens were turned to ensure people sheltered in place in their homes. This site was demolished after the owners cleaned the property under EPA oversite.
The picture below is internet clip art of a BASF plant that exploded near Xavier University in July of 1990. (The picture looks different than I remember the plant) I was in a basement lab behind the Museum Center at least five miles from the site of the explosion. The sound and shockwave was greater than anything I experienced in the Army. This was national news: two people died and most nearby buildings were destroyed. I oversaw the contractor doing the groundwater remediation. We hired former employees from the site, and they told stories similar to the Union Carbide employee in the Bhopal film.
It happened here, hopefully it never will again.
Photos by Jim Weast and Chris Hall Taken from SWOWEA IW Seminar PowerPoint Presentation. date unknown.