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Chem reaction closes Bio-Lab Georgia plant

A chemical reaction in a Georgia swimming pool chemical plant prompted the closure of an interstate freeway in both directions and the evacuation of surrounding businesses.

Firefighters responded to reports of a fire at KIK Custom Products Bio-Lab Plant in Conyers, Georgia, shortly before 6 a.m. on September 14, 2020. Plumes of chlorine gas could be seen billowing from the warehouse where Trichloroisocyanuric acid, a common pool chemical, is stored.

Although the incident was initially reported as a fire, follow-up statements from both KIK and fire crews later identified the accident as a chemical reaction between trichlor and water.

“We are investigating a chemical reaction that occurred at our Bio-Lab facility in Conyers, Georgia, due to water exposure, leading to smoke over Interstate 20. We are not aware of any injuries and have confirmed there is no fire at the facility.

Our management team is on the scene, working with first responders and local authorities to assess and contain the situation,” the statement says.

The company also said it had notified the U.S. Chemical and Safety Hazard Investigation Board.

A statement from Rockdale fire spokesperson Jamie Leavell confirmed there was no fire. “There were no flames, but there was heat involved. Something happened in there that caused the chemical to put off that vapor cloud,” Leavell said.

Fire officials said the chemical reaction involved about a dozen pallets of dry chemicals stored inside the facility.

“It was contained to about 10-12 pallets within that building and it’s remained isolated to those 10-12 pallets. They’re working to get unaffected chemical out of the building,” Leavell said.

Conyers Police Captain Kim Lucas said the smoke and chemicals were a major concern and local businesses in the area were told to evacuate.

Residents were encouraged to shelterin- place. Crews shut down all lanes of I-20 in both directions for more than 6 hours, causing major back-ups.

The incident comes just two weeks after a massive chemical fire at the Bio-Lab plant in Westlake, Louisiana.

The plant, which produces trichlor, caught fire in the aftermath of Hurricane Laura and suffered significant damage.

The Conyers plant itself has caught fire at least twice in the past.

In May 2004, a warehouse fire with multiple explosions occurred at the Conyers Bio-Lab plant, causing over $25 million in damage and forcing the evacuation of more than 3,000 people. The 260,000-square-foot metal warehouse contained 125 tons of dry chlorine pellets.

In June 2016, the facility again caught fire, although on a much smaller scale. Residents within a mile of the plant were evacuated, but given the all-clear to return within two hours.

Bio-Lab is a subsidiary of KIK Custom Products. KIK is based in Toronto, Canada, and bills itself as one of North America’s largest independent manufacturers of consumer products. KIK’s products include Comet, Spic and Span, The Works household cleaners, Prestone Automotive fluids, Clorox and BioGuard pool disinfectants.

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