Fire destroys battery recycling plant in Lawrence County
A fire that destroyed the Inmetco battery recycling plant in Lawrence County still was burning Sunday night, but it had been contained.
The blaze that started Sunday morning is being monitored by Inmetco officials, Ellwood City fire Chief Rick Myers said.
“Half the building where the fire originated collapsed on top of the product they had in that building, and it’s all in 55-gallon drums,” Myers said. “I believe this stuff will burn for quite some time before it will actually go out.”
The state Department of Environmental Protection was doing air monitoring throughout Sunday, Myers said. Inmetco officials will notify the fire department if the blaze spreads, Myers said, but he anticipates it will burn out without spreading.
Five firefighters were transported to Ellwood City Hospital for non-serious injuries. Four had been released as of Sunday night, he said.
“We just want everybody to know that at no time was there anybody in danger in terms of the substances that were burning,” he said.
People never were told to evacuate, he said. A Lawrence County emergency medical services official said there is no public health hazard but nearby residents are advised to stay indoors and keep windows and doors closed until the smoke clears.
“It can be a respiratory irritant,” Myers said, referring to smoke coming from the site.
The call came in at 8:54 a.m., according to the Ellwood City Fire Department. The fire was contained to the building of origin by about 10:40 a.m., Myers said.
Inmetco, a subsidiary of Horsehead Holdings Corp., specializes in recycling metals from batteries and hazardous wastes.
The company did not immediately respond to requests for comment Sunday.
In March, Inmetco announced a $10 million expansion of the Ellwood City plant to increase capacity by 15 percent and meet increased demand for its steel waste and battery recycling services.
The project was expected to be completed in 2016, according to a press release on the company’s website.
There was a fire at the plant in October 2012, which took firefighters from six companies about four hours to extinguish.
No injuries were reported during that incident.
Staff writer Elizabeth Behrman contributed to this report. Katelyn Ferral is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.