Chemical vented from Rubbertown plant

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Emergency crews had to respond to yet another HazMat situation in Rubbertown early Friday morning.

It happened around 5:00 a.m. Friday at American Synthetic off of Campground Road, when the chemical toluene leaked from a large storage tank.

The flashing lights of fire trucks and ambulances are becoming all too familiar sights in Rubbertown.

"Toluene is chemical that's used in the process of manufacturing rubber," said Chief John Wilkinson, Junior of the Lake Dreamland Fire Department.

The highly flammable and explosive chemical escaped from tank #4 around 5:00 a.m. Friday.

"There had been an over pressurization of a tank that released toluene onto the ground in vapor form," Wilkinson said.

But officials say a back-up system caught most of the chemical, making it a level one HazMat situation, which is the lowest level. No one was hurt and residents were never in any danger.

"You respond to it as if it's going to be the worst chemical spill there ever was and then you back off your resources once you find out it's not," said Doug Hamilton, Director of Metro Emergency Management.

It's not the first time this summer they've had to do that at American Synthetic. A gasket apparently broke a pipe, just less than three weeks ago prompting a level 2 HazMat call with the same chemical. That, coupled with a small fire last week has officials concerned about the plant.

"We're in the process of meeting with plant personnel to discuss that matter," Wilkinson said.

But it's part of a growing list of calls this year to Rubbertown. It all started with the double deadly chemical fire at Cabride Industries on March 21.

A month later on April 18, another HazMat situation, when up to 5,000 gallons of ethanol leaked out of a tank at the Marathon facility off Kramers Lane.

Then on May 9, an explosion left two employees slightly injured at Eckart America.

It's made for an incredibly active six months for the Lake Dreamland Fire Department and other emergency responders.

"It goes in waves. You can come down here and you cannot come down here for a year and then you can come down here several times as it appears we've come down here quite a few times in the last couple months," Wilkinson said.

The R-call line was activated, around 5:05 a.m. and then updated about ten minutes later to let everyone know that there was no danger.

Agencies like the Kentucky Department of Environmental Management will investigate whether there have been any violations; OSHA only gets involved if there are injuries.

It could take several weeks to find out the cause and what's next.

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