BELDING, Mich. — They say it is not enough to just correct the safety violations at the facility and resume operations. Rather, Some neighbors and Belding city leaders want to permanently shut down a factory where pool sanitation pucks are produced.
“There are other places they can produce that product,” says Belding City Manager John Niemela.
Over the past few years there have been several chemical fires at KMI Manufacturing that led to the release of poisonous chlorine gas and, on at least one occasion, the evacuation of nearby homes. The latest chemical fire was in a dumpster outside the factory July 19, weeks after regulators ordered a temporary halt to production of chlorine pool sanitation pucks.
“With all of the scrutiny they have been under in the past weeks we would never have expected one more fire,” said Belding Fire Chief Gregg Moore. “But it did.”
“The dumpster fire on Friday [July 19] is clearly unacceptable,” said Department of Environment Great Lakes and Energy spokesman Scott Dean. “We will not allow this facility to be open until we are satisfied they can operate safely.”
Representatives from federal, state, county and city agencies hosted an open house Monday at the Belding Library to share information about the KMI factory and steps they are taking to ensure public safety.
"An opportunity for people to get face to face with local officials," explained Ionia County Health Officer Ken Bowen.
Those who want the plant shut down permanently said their carelessness with a hazardous chemical is unacceptable in the middle of a residential neighborhood.
“Yea, if you have chlorine gas and it is going to wander down the street and gas you in your bed,” said Shaun Price, who lives near the factory.
“It is right in the heart of a residential neighborhood,” said City Manager Niemela. “I don’t know if they can ever give us the level of certainty that’s it is never going to happen again because it has happened not once, not twice but many times.”
When it comes into contact with water, the chemical used to make pool sanitation pucks smolders and releases chlorine gas. Monday a crew was seen repairing the leaky roof on the factory. Leaders in Belding are planning a public meeting to provide citizens with additional information on how, when and if manufacturing will resume at the plant.
“Worst case scenario would be a large-scale fire at the facility that results in a large release of chlorine gas,” said Health Officer Bowen. “It could have serious health effects and could result in deaths.”
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