GLOUCESTER- People who were evacuated from their homes because of a hazmat situation in Gloucester were back home by noon Wednesday and a stretch of Rt. 17 finally reopened following a hazmat situation at Advanced Finishing Systems.
Bob Spieldenner with the Va. Dept. of Emergency Management said a plume of acid fumes from a bath of nitric acid formed, prompting the alert. It's a chemical used in the removal of metal coatings.
The Newport News Regional Haz‐Mat Response Team responded after the situation was first reported around 2:30 a.m. and made an initial assessment. Battalion Chief Steve Pincus said crews continued to monitoring air quality.
VDEM Hazmat officer Todd Cannon said a heat source attached to a tank inside the business was left on and that caused the chemical to overheat. As a safety precaution, the tank released the pressure in a gas form.
13News Now found that the company is under investigation by the Environmental Protection Agency. Spokeswoman Donna Heron says the investigation stems from an inspection that took place in September 2010, but she declined to disclose the nature of the violation. Online records obtained from the EPA show the company has been out of compliance every quarter since the 2010 inspection.
Rt. 17 closed in both directions between Powhatan and Chapman drives and a detour was in place until the road reopened around 12:30 p.m.
People living from 2753 to 2813 Kemp Lane and from 7177 to 7189 Peppers Lane were told to leave as a precaution and went to Bellamy Methodist Church at 4870 Chestnut Fork Road.
Morgan Woodlief posted on the WVEC13 Facebook page she lives on Kemp Lane.
"They seem to be currently using our road as a detour road. The whole lane is being asked to evacuate until further notice," she wrote.
VDOT says motorists on southbound Route 17 were being detoured around the scene and do not have to travel to West Point.
"You can see a lot of emergency vehicles. I didn’t see the tents at the time and I couldn’t see exactly what was going on, but there was a detour and once you go around it, it was pretty much wide open,” said Ryan LaFata.
Hazmat officials said crews wore suits that don’t allow any vapor in because they initially didn't know what they were dealing. Hazmat personnel went into the building and off-loadeded the bath of nitric acid and put it into secure containers/drums at the company.
According to the company website, Advanced Finishing Systems specializes in custom, military, commercial and aerospace metal finishing.
Click here to read the EPA's facility report on Advanced Finishing Systems.
Statement to WVEC.com by Aaron Green, VP of Operations at Advanced Finishing Systems:
AFS is currently in compliance with all EPA guidelines, DEQ guidelines, and HRSD requirements. Not only are these agencies necessary in this type of industry, we have found them to be helpful on many occasions concerning any questions that we have had in the past on regulatory issues.