MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - Last month’s explosion at the Penn-A-Kem chemical plant in north Memphis has already claimed one life, with another still hospitalized and fighting for his own.
Residents are concerned about after effects, worried that harmful chemicals may have escaped into the environment.
A meeting on Tuesday, October 9, at the Douglass Community Center was designed to address those concerns.
A request was made for blood donations to help the other burn victim, who is still hospitalized.
Even before the meeting officially began, those in attendance were told the results of an investigation into what really happened were not complete, so no real answers were forthcoming on that front.
That left those in the neighborhood surrounding the blast scratching their heads.
“I’m confused, I don’t really know what to think,” Carrie Dowdy told abc24.com. Dowdy lives only a block away from where the explosion took place.
Dowdy, like most of those at the meeting, was worried about the release of chemicals into the air.
“We call it FAM,” said Bob Hamm, who represented Penn-A-Kem at the community meeting. “We’ve produced it for 20 years with no incidents, so it was a surprise to us.”
“That FAM,” said another resident, “I believe I read on the internet is a dangerous chemical.”
Dowdy believes she is breathing that chemical.
“It’s in the air and you inhale it.” Dowdy told abc24.com.
She is sticking to that, despite assurances to the contrary.
“We established what the air quality was around the entire plant,” said Memphis Fire Chief Alvin Benson. “We did not detect anything of a contaminant or toxic nature.”
It was noted that Penn-A-Kem has been a good corporate citizen for seventy years.
“They have a good clean record with us,” said Bob Rogers of the Shelby County Health Department, “and are always cooperative.”
Penn-A-Kem shut down production of FAM until it is able to figure out why the explosion happened.
“We’ve engaged a research team with chemical specialties to help us understand the chemistry behind what occurred,” Hamm said.
Despite the FAM shutdown and assurances the environment is clean, Douglas residents are worried about the future.
“What would happen if a doctor said illness in the neighborhood is affected by the plant?” asked resident John Ware.
“The fire department determined no release,” replied Hamm, “there is no higher priority than protecting our employees, the community and the environment.”
Penn-A-Kem has set up a telephone number for anyone with a claim related to the explosion: 901-320-4019.