KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) — Eastman Chemical Company released more than 5,000 pounds of ethylene glycol into the Holston River in early January, the company said in a statement to News Channel 11.
The Kingsport-based company believes 5,380 pounds of the chemical was released.
In a letter dated January 8, Eastman notified state regulators of the release. At that time, the company believed around 4,816 pounds of the chemical had made it to the river.
Eastman told News Channel 11 Wednesday night that further investigation revealed that the release exceeded 5,000 pounds.
In the January 8 letter, the company said the release began on the evening of January 3 and is estimated to have lasted for roughly six hours.
“Eastman personnel responded to the release by identifying and stopping the release source,” the letter states. “The release source was further secured to prevent a future release. There are no known acute or chronic health risks associated with this release.”
The letter states ethylene glycol is “not an extremely hazardous material.”
“There was no noted fish kills or wildlife impact according to our documentation,” the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation said in an email regarding the release.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Emergency Response Safety and Health Database describes ethylene glycol as a clear, colorless and syrup-like liquid.
The CDC reports the compound is used in multiple manufacturing processes and can be found in things like:
- Automotive antifreeze
- Brake fluids
- Ballpoint pens
“Ethylene glycol has a sweet taste and is often accidentally or intentionally ingested,” the CDC reports. “Ethylene glycol is chemically broken down in the body into toxic compounds.”
If large enough amounts of the compound are ingested, it can be fatal after affecting the kidneys and heart, according to the CDC.
Eastman says it has taken steps to prevent another release.
“After stopping the release, Eastman representatives conducted an evaluation to determine the cause and identify steps to prevent it from happening again,” a spokesperson said in an email to News Channel 11. “These steps included modifying some piping that lead to the site’s wastewater treatment facility.”
Eastman stated in the January 8 letter that the following agencies were alerted to the January release:
- National Response Center
- Tennessee Emergency Management Agency
- Sullivan County Emergency Planning Committee
- Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation
- Division of Water Resources
- Certain Holston River downstream water users
You can read the full letter from Eastman below: