UPDATE: Eastman says surrounding residents can resume normal activities
Updated Oct 4, 2017 at 4:58 PM
UPDATE: 4:20 p.m. — Eastman has removed the precautionary shelter in place advisory for most personnel at its Kingsport site.
According to a statement: “We’ve also removed the precautionary shelter in place for the surrounding community within a half-mile radius. Eastman’s near neighbors can resume all normal activities. We appreciate the cooperation from all our neighbors and community during this time. In an event like this, we take every precaution to ensure the safety of our employees and our site neighbors.”
As of 4:25 p.m., Kingsport police were preparing to reopen surrounding roads. Jared Drive is expected to stay closed for the remainder of the night.
Check back with TimesNews.net for more information as it develops.
UPDATE: After previously clearing the scene, Eastman Chemical Co. officials have called police back, asking for road closures in the immediate area of Wednesday morning's explosion.
According to Kingsport Police Department Public Information Officer Tom Patton, sections of John B. Dennis Highway, Lincoln Street and Jared Drive will be closed indefinitely. He had no information on why Eastman officials requested police back at the scene.
A communication from Eastman, sent by email at 2:19 p.m., reiterated "a process upset in the coal gasification area."
"There have been no injuries reported beyond first aid," according to the release. "We're following all safety protocols to assess and secure the area. We’re working to determine the cause and assess the impact to operations and the business."
Meanwhile Wellmont Media Relations Director Jim Wozniak reports that Holston Valley Medical Center has not treated any private citizens as a result of the incident.
Update: 2:22 p.m.
A reverse 911 message from Kingsport Central Dispatch relayed the following to city residents:
“As a precautionary measure, residents within a quarter mile of Eastman Chemical Co. are asked to shelter in place. This is due to an interruption in their processes. There have not been any hazardous chemicals released. Please do not call 911 for informational purposes. Emergencies only. Turn to local news for updates.”
UPDATE: 1:05 p.m.
According to a statement from Eastman:
“Eastman has removed the precautionary shelter in place advisory Wednesday for its corporate campus and surrounding community, except for those within a half-mile radius of the intersection of John B. Dennis and Moreland Drive, and personnel inside the Kingsport plant perimeter.
“The shelter in place advisory was issued in an abundance of caution in response to a process upset in the coal gasification area of its Kingsport manufacturing site.
“No injuries have been reported. The incident was reported to the proper regulatory authorities.
“We expect to have an assessment by 3 p.m. whether the localized shelter in place advisory will be lifted.
“Eastman will continue to share additional details as they become available.”
Update - Eastman released the following statement shortly before noon.
“Around 10:00 a.m., Eastman experienced a process upset in the coal gasification area of its Kingsport manufacturing site. The upset created a loud noise and a visible plume.
No one was injured.
In an excess of caution, our employees are currently sheltered in place as we are working to secure the area. Until more information is known, near neighbors are advised to do the same. That means to stay indoors, turn off your HVAC system. More information will be updated on eastman.com, the Eastman Careline 423-229-CARE and local media.
We have reported the incident to the proper regulatory authorities.”
Kingsport City Schools also issued an alert shortly before noon, saying it has moved to a shelter in place status at the recommendation of local authorities as the current situation at Eastman is investigated.
Normal school operations will continue with students remaining inside as more information is gathered.
Sullivan County Schools have also taken precautionary measures due to the reported explosion at Eastman, having its schools in the North and South zones shelter in place.
An explosion has been reported at Eastman Chemical Co.
According to Barry Brickey, public information officer for the Kingsport Fire Department, fire fighters responded to Eastman on Wednesday morning, but by 11 a.m. all crews except one engine had returned to their stations. Tom Patton, public information officer for the Kingsport Police Department, said Sullivan County EMS also responded to the report.
Dispatch received the call around 10:19 a.m.
No further information is known at this time. The Times-News has reached out to Eastman for more information and will update the story accordingly.
An Eastman employee working near the explosion told the Times-News, "The gasifier blew up. They just made us run to our car and get out. They told us to get out. We've been in our safe haven since the first boom happened. Then the second boom, the gasifier blew, and the auxiliary went after that. That's when they told us to get to the gate, run to our car and go home."
The employee said, "The gasifier fumes are everything bad that's extracted from coal. That's the black smoke that's going into the air. I reckon it's so bad over there. It blew and ripped part of the building off. I've never seen anything like this before in my life. It's crazy. It was very very loud. I can't even explain it. It was scary.”
The employee couldn't see if anyone got hurt.
“The first one was the big flare stack. That's what happens when something goes wrong with the gasifier. It blew. Everybody started evacuating then. Then, all the pressure that gets built up in the gasifier. Then the gasifier blew, and after that the auxiliary blew.”