Second fire at Kearny chemical plant in less than 2 months

chemical fire


Alden Leeds in Kearny, where another fire broke out Wednesday night, July 10, 2019. (Reena Rose Sibayan | The Jersey Journal)

KEARNY — The Kearny chlorine plant that caught fire in May and sent thick black smoke into the air, temporarily closing the Pulaski Skyway, was the scene of another fire Wednesday night, Kearny fire Chief Steve Dyl said.

Fire crews responded to the Alden Leeds chlorine facility on Jacobus Avenue at 9:05 p.m. Wednesday to the report of a fire chemical plant, which is situated near the banks of the Passaic River. Dyl said a small fire erupted when leftover products being processed for disposal caused a chemical reaction that damaged pallets and other shipping materials also slated for disposal.

Dyl said all industrial areas north of the facility on Jacobus Avenue were evacuated until around 3:45 a.m., when the fire crews left the scene.

Fire departments from Jersey City, Harrison, Belleville, and North Arlington provided coverage of Kearny firehouses during the incident, Dyl said, adding that air monitor tests conducted by the Hudson Regional Health Commission found the air to be safe around the facility.

Alden Leeds declined comment for this story.

“The fire was promptly extinguished. Items in the building from the previous fire were being sorted for disposal and caused a reaction that ignited pallets,” Kearny Mayor Al Santos said. “No injuries and no chlorine reads (were found) outside the building.”

Dyl said the state Department of Environmental Protection oversees air monitoring at the facility during work hours, and that the cleanup project has now been turned over to a licensed site remediation professional.

“We told the LSRP to maintain a fire watch and to monitor how debris is recovered at that site,” Dyl said.

The facility, which produces chlorine and other products for swimming pools and spas, caught fire on May 17 and burned for hours. Fire boats were needed to assist in quelling the blaze, which could be seen from miles away. The fire sent thick black smoke into the area and even temporarily closed the Pulaski Skyway.

Now, after the second fire in two months, the Sierra Club of New Jersey is calling for an investigation into Alden Leeds and is requesting more state oversight of facilities like the one in Kearny.

“New Jersey has hundreds of facilities with even more hazardous chemicals,” Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, said in a statement. “We need to hold the Alden Leeds plant accountable and make sure these fires don’t keep happening. It is too important for the safety and health of the community.”

People don’t realize that there are facilities in New Jersey that are right in the middle of their community,” Tittel added. “Fires are happening, and they can have disastrous damages to the health of people and the environment.”

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