Originally created 07/17/04

Chemicals pose no threat after blaze



Chemicals that burned in a Thursday fire in Edgefield County don't pose an environmental threat, health officials said Friday.

South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control spokesman Thom Berry said most of the solvents used by Merriwether-based Land Ark Wood Finishes burned up in the afternoon blaze, which produced plumes of black smoke visible for 20 miles. The chemicals used by Michael Baugh in his home-based business included beeswax, tung oil, lemon extract and terpene hydrocarbon.

"There was only about 10 percent of it left after the fire, and most of it was natural-based, so it should not be a problem," Mr Berry said.

He said the chemical residue did not present a danger to groundwater and that the health agency would oversee labeling and disposal of the remaining chemicals, which were stored in 50-gallon drums.

"We'll look at what landfills may take it, and perhaps some of it can be recycled," Mr. Berry said.

Mr. Baugh said Friday the cause of the fire, which set off a chain of explosions, "was electrical or had to do with the intense heat the shop was exposed to."

He said he doesn't use propane tanks in the manufacture of wood finish, but did have a 6-pound commercial grade tank he used for soldering.

Mr. Baugh also responded Friday to concerns neighbor Bill Jackson expressed about the business.

"We understand his concerns, and we're very sorrowful for the stress we put him in," Mr. Baugh said. "We think his concern is a legitimate one."

Mr. Baugh said he planned to move the business.

"This is our livelihood," he said. "Our plan now is to rebuild and get back in business, and locate elsewhere as soon as we can."

What's Next: Officials with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control will oversee the cleanup of the fire site and the labeling and disposal of leftover chemicals next week.

Reach Stephen Gurr at (803) 648-1395, ext. 110, or stephen.gurr@augustachronicle.com.