By Ed Brock
It was the worst situation that could happen at a chemical plant, and ABC Compounding employee Darryl Thomas was right in the middle of it.
"Somebody said there was a fire and everybody ran out. All I seen was smoke," Thomas said. "In a chemical plant like that, you see smoke, you better get out."
Three people were burned when a small fire broke out around 6:26 a.m. Tuesday at the chemical plant at 6970 Ga. Highway 54 just south of Mt. Zion Road, said Capt. Amy Nix with the Clayton County Fire Department. About 15 businesses within a half-mile radius of the plant, with a total of 300 employees, were evacuated and Ga. Highway 54 was closed for several hours.
"There was a release of some product from the building," Nix said. "The entire plant has been contaminated."
Nix said the product was chlorine-based but the vapor cloud that escaped the building dissipated quickly and caused no injuries. Another ABC Compounding employee, Elendzard Lewis, said 50 or 60 people were at work when the fire happened and he thought there was a chlorine product involved.
"You don't want to be around chlorine, if it is chlorine," Lewis said.
Both Thomas and Lewis were outside the building when the fire started.
Nix couldn't specify if the three people who were taken to Southern Regional Medical Center were employees of the company. She said they did suffer chemical burns and two were transferred to Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta.
The Georgia Environmental Protection Division and the state's Emergency Management Agency were called in to clean up the site. Nix said she had no estimate on how long the clean up would continue.
ABC Compounding makes cleaners and other chemical products. The Morrow and Atlanta Fire Departments also assisted in the call, and county and Morrow police blocked traffic. Curiosity seekers, ABC Compounding employees and evacuees milled around within the perimeter established by the police.
By 9 a.m., Raj Patel of Stockbridge had been waiting for nearly two hours to get to his job at Toto Toilets inside the evacuation zone. Patel was more annoyed than scared.
"I can't get into work, I can't get my money," Patel said. "It's getting hot out here."