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Expedited Settlement Addresses Impacts on Drinking Water for Neighboring Communities in Kansas after On-Site Explosion

On December 7, 2016, an Administrative Settlement Agreement and Order on Consent for a Removal Action (Removal ASAOC) between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Airosol, Co., Inc. was signed and completed. The expedited settlement allowed Airosol to quickly address onsite contamination, stop any migration of contaminants to adjacent waterways and move forward in getting their business back in operation. The business employs over 40 people in this small southeast Kansas community of 2,500 residents.

A November 22, 2016, explosion and fire at the Airosol, Co., Inc. plant in Neodesha, Kansas demolished a good portion of the plant and caused significant contamination to adjacent waterways affecting several water supplies for multiple cities downstream. Quick action by the state of Kansas, EPA, and local authorities minimized the potential harm and allowed an expedited cleanup of the contamination.

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Information about Airosol, Inc.

Airosol Company, Inc. was established in 1943 as Airosol, Inc., to manufacture aerosol containers of insecticide for the military during World War II. In 1949, the company was renamed to Airosol Company, Inc. and began to experiment in packaging numerous products in both aerosol and liquid forms.

Airosol, Inc. began with 12 people in a 4,000 square foot facility requiring labor intensive hand operations. Airosol Co., Inc. has over 40 employees in a 100,000 square foot facility with state of the art high speed filling equipment. Early packaging consisted mostly of insecticides. Through the years the company has developed product formulas for automotive, janitorial, industrial and government use.

Airosol Co., Inc. products are sold in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and numerous foreign countries. Airosol Co. Inc. remains a privately held corporation headquartered in Neodesha, Kansas.

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Information about the Incident at the Airosol Co. Inc. Site

On November 22, 2016, an explosion and large fire occurred at the Airosol, Co., Inc. Site. As a result of this fire and explosion the buildings at the Site were heavily damaged. Three people were injured, one seriously with burns and two others had breathing problems. The facility where the business is operated is located at 1206 Illinois Street, Neodesha, Wilson County, Kansas 66757.

The facility consists of three buildings with a combined total area of approximately 111,665 square feet. Manufacturing (mixing and packaging) activities are conducted within these buildings. The explosion, fire, and subsequent use of water and foam suppressants to put the fire out caused chemicals at the site to be spread throughout the site and off-site areas. Twelve different contaminants of concern were known to be present at the site, including acetone, cyclohexane, diethylene glycol monobutyl ether, ethyl acetate, ethylene glycol, heptane, hexane, methanol, PCE, toluene, vinyl acetate copolymer and xylene. Firefighting-related runoff from the site entered the Fall River, which drains into the Verdigris River. Runoff from the site entered the Fall and Verdigris Rivers, which are drinking water sources for Neodesha and downstream communities including Independence, Kansas and Coffeyville, Kansas, as well as Delaware, Lenapah, and Nowata communities in Oklahoma.

Water sampling activities were conducted immediately after the fire and in the days following the event from the Fall and Verdigris Rivers. This sampling showed several contaminants above health-based levels of concern, including acetone, dietheylene glycol monobutyl ether, ethylene glycol, methanol, PCE, and toluene.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) issued a do not drink order for Wilson County Rural Water District (RWD) No. 12. KDHE issued the order because raw untreated water was pumped into the distribution system for fire suppression at the site. Similar orders were issued for Wilson County RWDs No.4 and No. 8, the City of Neodesha, the City of Dearing, Labatte County RWD No. 6, and Montgomery County RWDs. No. 1-C, No. 2C-A and No. 2C-B. These orders were issued on November 22, 2016 and remained in effect until November 28, 2016.

Immediately following the incident, the Kansas State Governor Sam Brownback issued a state of disaster emergency declaration for Montgomery and Wilson counties in Kansas.

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Overview of the Administrative Settlement Agreement and Order on Consent

On November 28, 2016, the state of Kansas referred this matter to EPA for an emergency response federal action to address the contamination presented by the fire and explosion at the Airosol plant.

By December 7, 2016, EPA and Airosol had completed and signed a Removal ASAOC. On the same day, EPA finalized an action memorandum laying out the work to be done by Airosol to address site contaminants. The ASAOC required Airosol to complete all actions necessary to implement the action memorandum. In general, Airosol had to ensure that any remaining hazardous substance releases were contained on site to the extent practicable and ensure that no runoff was allowed to enter the Fall River or its tributaries until completion of the cleanup activity. Airosol also had to stabilize the site to minimize hazards to on-site workers and the public, and remove and properly dispose of hazardous substances that remained on site or that may have migrated off site during fire suppression efforts.

The quick completion of the ASAOC allowed the onsite work to be completed within several weeks after the fire and explosion.

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Contact Information

For more information, contact

Steven L. Sanders
Senior Counsel
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Region 7
11201 Renner Boulevard
Lenexa, KS 66219
(913) 551-7578

Karissa Orris
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20460
(202) 564-0546

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