KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) — After a power failure caused a purple plume of iodine and methyl iodide to rise over Eastman Chemical Company on Friday, some Kingsport residents say the company needs to do a better job of letting people know what’s going on during failures like this.
Some live in the neighborhood where debris containing asbestos rained down in January. They say they deserve to know more as these failures happen.
“I can see pretty much the whole plant, so in my opinion, we should be the first to know,” said Ashley Burke, who lives near the plant.
Burke stayed inside after receiving a notification about an issue at the plant on her phone. Kingsport police said they received word about the purple vapors about an hour after they had been spotted. That’s when city officials activated the hyper-reach system to notify people.
“That goes out by phone calls, it goes out by text messages, it goes out by emails,” said Kingsport Police Department spokesperson Tom Patton.
During the January incident that caused debris containing asbestos to fall in neighborhoods near the plant, no notification was sent. The hyper-reach system was improved following that incident.
But Burke says the company needs to do a better job of being clear about what’s going on.
“To me, being up front with the community, that keeps you in business,” she said.
Anita Fleenor was at work a received a phone call at work about the problem.
“We were still close to the plant, and what I heard is that there had been a discharge, but it didn’t say what,” Fleenor said. She lives in the neighborhood where debris fell back in January. A former long-time Eastman employee, Fleenor worries about safety at the plant after those two incidents.
“My concern is that there may not be as thorough or as active a safety measure in all the different areas of Eastman,” she said.
After 11 a.m., Kingsport activated its emergency operations center, but say no Eastman officials showed up when invited, according to the police department.
After two incidents shut down the plant this year, Burke questions her future in the city.
“I don’t want to live here in Kingsport. It makes me nervous.”