Belding plant makes fixes; neighbors still uneasy

Ionia County

BELDING, Mich. (WOOD) — State officials say a Belding plant isn’t a threat because it has stopped using a dangerous chemical, but neighbors are worried anyway because it’s still being stored in the building.

Operations at Kassouni Manufacturing Inc. along Front Street have been put on hold after it was ordered by the Ionia County Health Department to resolve safety concerns, but the smell of chlorine lingered outside Thursday.

The chemical in question is called trichloroisocyanuric acid, which is used in the production of chlorine tablets for pools. When the acid is exposed to small amounts of water, it releases dangerous chlorine gas.

Thursday’s rain was exactly the sort of thing that could start an uncontrolled reaction. The building has holes in the roof that are being repaired under the county order, but those holes aren’t near where acid is stored.

“We made sure they are wrapped up and put safely away,” Michigan Department of Health and Human Services toxicologist Joost Vanterve told 24 Hour News 8 Thursday.

Neighbors aren’t soothed.

“Every time it rained, I have always been concerned because it seems like often when it rains, they have a leak and then they have a spill,” Debra Harrison, who lives across the street, said.

That’s what happened on June 22 incident when the Belding Fire Department found a haze near the plant that residents said smelled strongly of chlorine. The city manager then called for authorities to check out the plant and a federal investigation found it has posed a threat to residents health since it opened a decade ago. A disaster at the plant could kill dozens or even hundreds, the feds said.

“I’m lucky. It blows, I’m probably the first one to go,” Harrison said. “What about these people that are further out? They’re going to have the injuries. They’re going have the burns.”

She said she’s voiced concerns to the fire department before and was told to have a bag packed and emergency plan in place in case she needs to evacuate.

“My adult kids have been told, ‘Anything happens, you make sure you sue the city of Belding and you are to sue this company,'” Harrison said.

Lynn Kehoe lives half a mile away and runs a child care business out of her home. She said she’s worried about the safety of the kids she watches, including her own 7-month-old grandson, if things aren’t handled properly.

“I hope the city is vigilant in getting the problem solved,” Kehoe said.

The state says the company is complying with all orders.

“That order will not be lifted until we have a plan in place from the company which minimizes any threats related to the pool sanitizers tablet production,” Vanterve said.

A facility manager declined to comment Thursday.

The county says that if you create an account for its Smart911 program, you can sign up to get a mass alert in the event of a disaster at the plant.

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