The Osage allowed a trading post on their Kansas lands that has kept its Osage name and is known as Neodesha, Kansas, where the Fall River meets up with the Verdigris River. They then purchased their own land in Indian Territory in what is now the state of Oklahoma.
In a 1943 W.J. Small of Neodesha and Dr. Lyle Goodhue, a researcher with the US Dept. of Agriculture who developed the first aerosol container formed a company. Airosol Inc. set out to manufacture aerosol containers of insecticide for the military during World War II with 12 employees. The name changed slightly with new ownership in 1949 to Airosol Company. Last week they had 75 employees in a 100,000 square foot facility in Neodesha, Kansas, selling all sorts of products in US and foreign countries.
Two days before Thanksgiving there was an explosion at the Airosol Company. Townspeople felt and heard it and began to see the smoke. One officer posted a map of the plume from the fire and some people were evacuated around the plant.
The blast and subsequent fire injured at least three employees, including a 57-year-old man who was treated for burns.
Areas of the plant continued to burn a day later but large chemical storage tanks were no longer in danger of igniting, according to Wilson County Emergency Management. However, some aerosol cans in storage continued to explode periodically. Officials decided to let the fire burn its self out.
Because of the huge amount of water used to keep the fire from reaching the storage tanks there has been some chemical residue runoff which seeped into nearby streams and Fall River contributing to the problem of low water pressure which caused the water plant to shut down. Untreated water was pumped into the city’s system as firefighters depleted the fresh water supply when more than 2 million gallons of water were used to contain the fire.
Runoff from the plant further complicated the issue by spiking the level of chemicals in nearby waterways used for drinking water. Kansas Department of Health and Environment officials advised residents not to use tap water for cooking, bathing or activities that might spray the water that it could be easily inhaled. Bottled water was offered for residents and 4 rural water districts.
In 1990, the most recent year on file, Airosol Co Inc released 1,000 pounds of pollutants. 500 lbs of methanol and 500 lbs of cyclohexane. Polluter data was obtained from the Toxic Release Inventory Program. I could find no more recent reports on releases on TRI or other EPA sites. When researching the company website after this incident, page after page of their products came up with the message: Oops! That page can’t be found. But out there on a facebook post for a TV weather person was a short comment from a former employee of the company: "I worked there in 1973. It was a dangerous place."
It certainly was last Tuesday.
Airosol Company Inc. is a superfund site. It received a preliminary assessment in 2002, a site inspection was not completed and the last action taken by EPA was in 2010. It is not yet on the National Priorities List. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) identifies sites such as Airosol Company Inc. because they pose or had once posed a potential risk to human health and/or the environment due to contamination by one or more hazardous wastes.
Kansas Governor Sam Brownback issued an emergency disaster declaration to allow Kansas National Guard to assist the impacted areas. A countywide burn ban was instituted through Monday to deter any threat of outdoor fires, which would require existing water supplies to extinguish.
A water emergency got my attention. Going without water certainly would be an emergency. After watching the news about towns and water districts with NO USE notices going out, who wouldn't think, " Too Bad, on Thanksgiving." But reading the individual city notices, showed another piece of it. Coffeyville, KS: all non-essential use of water is prohibited. All restaurants and delis, car washes and Laundromats are to close. Residents are to limit water to life sustaining use only – drinking, medical needs and food preparation. (The water was bad enough, you couldn't even wash your car but drinking was still ok?) Independence, KS City Commission asked all customers to cease all water consumption and usage except for life-sustaining activities defined as any event that is needed to prolong life, such as medical needs they gave the example as kidney dialysis. (?)
The DEQ believed ethylene glycol (antifreeze) could have leaked into the Verdigris River so parts of Oklahoma are now being affected by the Airosol Plant explosion in Kansas.
Residents of northeastern Oklahoma had their water service turned off because of possible contamination. Both Kansas and Oklahoma authorities are examining the water quality to see what chemicals from the plant and the chemicals used to put out the fire.
That "muddy" water could contain a laundry list of chemicals that were seen flowing from the plant into the Verdigris River.
All water is precious and that is all the more obvious when we have to do without it. That bad water is passing through and will end up in the Oologah Lake.
When checking the Kansas and Oklahoma maps to see the direction the river flows and where the affected towns lay, I couldn't help but notice the Verdigris River is the same distance as Grand Lake, my drinking water source is to my house. How quickly one incident, one accident can occur and how the impacts flow and affect all those downstream. Our water sits out there innocently waiting to give itself to us for life and yet we are lining up industries of all sorts to sit along her waterways dangerously able to ruin it for all of us.
Which takes us back to Standing Rock and our water protectors, and how important for each of us with every glass of water we drink to thank them for waking us all up. There at Neodesha, they also had oil. A successful oil well drilled in what would become America’s first significant oil well west of the Mississippi River and have been left with the remains of the Neodesha Refinery and its legacy waste and fears for their health and the safety of eating the fish from their rivers.
And now this.
Respectfully considering Muddy Waters ~ Rebecca Jim