UPDATE: Four Treated for Chemical Exposure on Barge

By: Olivia Fecteau; WSAZ News Staff Email
By: Olivia Fecteau; WSAZ News Staff Email
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UPDATE 3/11/14 @ 6:30 p.m.
CATLETTSBURG, Ky. (WSAZ) – Four people hospitalized after exposure to a dangerous chemical on board a barge Tuesday are expected to be OK.

The exposure was reported shortly after 10 a.m. Tuesday. Four workers on the barge, which belongs to Ingram Barge Company, were exposed to vapors from the chemical methyl methacrylate, an irritant that can causing burning to the eyes, shortness of breath, and even respiratory failure in extreme cases.

“As weather warms up, certain chemicals produce more and more vapor, depending on how hot it is, what happens in the tank is pressure,” Tom Adams, executive director of Boyd County EMS, said. “There are safety vents that prevent the tank from rupturing that will vent the gas.”

Adams said he was not sure whether the vents opened in this case or whether workers opened a manhole that released vapors, and representatives from the Ingram Barge Company were not releasing any information about what happened as of Tuesday evening.

Hazmat crews helped the men off the boat Tuesday shortly before noon. The first man, who EMS crews say was in the worst condition, was taken out on a stretcher with a breathing mask over his face. Workers helped him stand up and poured what appeared to be water on his head and body. The other men walked out on their own and were stripped of their clothes and decontaminated before being taken to the hospital.

“Burning eyes – that had cleared up a lot by the time we'd gotten three of them,” Adams said of the symptoms the men were experiencing. “One, however, was still complaining of shortness of breath, some difficulty breathing, some lightheadedness.”

Adams told WSAZ.com all agencies – EMS, fire and police – are required to do hazmat training several times a year as prescribed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. In particular, he said, the Ashland Fire Department trains frequently and was able to respond quickly in this case.

On a typically quiet street in Catlettsburg, Tuesday morning was an unusual scene.

“I kind of freaked out,” Kristen Johnson, who lives on Center Street across from the barge landing, said. “I thought about the chemical spill in West Virginia. I instantly thought, like, is there something going on with the water, do I need to be concerned or did somebody fall in the river?”

Johnson said she had worked a midnight shift and was napping when she heard sirens and alarms. Her concern gave way to relief when she heard all four workers were expected to be OK.

“It was shocking, cause it's so quiet over here,” Johnson said.

EMS workers tell WSAZ.com there is no danger to the public and that the vapors were contained to the barge.

A representative from the Ingram Barge Company arrived in Catlettsburg to investigate the barge and find out how the chemical vapor leaked, but as of Tuesday evening, the only information the company released to WSAZ.com was that the workers who were hospitalized will remain overnight for observation.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest on this story.

UPDATE 3/11/14 @ 12 p.m.
CATLETTSBURG, Ky. (WSAZ) -- Four men have been treated for chemical exposure on a barge.

The crew was working on a barge belonging to Ingram Barge Company.

They were on the Ohio River, about five miles up river of Catlettsburg, when they were exposed to the chemical methyl methacrylate.

The exposure happened about 10 a.m.

A hazmat crew was set up and then four men were brought off the tug to be treated.

Boy County OEM Tom Adams tells WSAZ.com the chemical is an irritant that can cause burning to the eyes, and could cause respiratory failure in large doses of exposure.

Adams says three of the men that were exposed had eye irritation, and one was experiencing shortness of breath.

A hazmat crew helped decontaminate the men, by rinsing them off before they were transported to the hospital.

All men were reportedly in good condition and are expected to be ok.

No word at this time what caused the chemical leak.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest on this story.

ORIGINAL STORY 3/11/14 @ 11 a.m.
CATLETTSBURG, Ky. (WSAZ) – Hazmat crews are responding to Catlettsburg where multiple people were exposed to a dangerous chemical while working on a barge.

An Ashland Firefighter tells WSAZ.com that there are four patients.

Catlettsburg’s fire chief tells WSAZ.com says the workers were exposed to the chemical methyl methacrylate around 10 a.m. Tuesday on a barge along the Ohio river.

The barge operator pulled the barge over at a dock in Catlettsburg to get treatment for the people who were exposed to the chemical.

Hazmat crews are setting up a decontamination area along the river banks, near Center Street, to get the chemical off the victims before they’re taken to the hospital.

The chief tells WSAZ.com that the people that have been contaminated will be decontaminated and clothes will be cut off the workers before they are transported to the hospital.

Crews on the scene say the first person was brought off the barge on a stretcher, with a mask over their face.

The second man and third man both walked off the barge. One man had his clothing wrapped around his waist, another was covered with a blanket.

According to the EPA, methyl methacrylate is often used in the manufacturing of resins and plastics, like advertising signs and displays, lighting fixtures and coatings, like latex paints or lacquers.

It's irritating to the skin, eyes and mucous membranes. The could lead to chest tightness, coughing, wheezing or a rash.

We have a crew on the scene.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest on this story.

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