Crews slowly vacuum plastic powder near Zeeland plant

Ottawa County

ZEELAND, Mich. (WOOD) — Crews painstakingly worked to clean up the release of a plastic powder outside a plant in Zeeland Tuesday.

The spill at the plant on Centennial Street north of E. Washington Avenue was reported shortly after 9 a.m. Ottawa County Emergency Management Director Lou Hunt told News 8 said the pulverized copolymer — essentially a fine plastic — was released when a valve blew and dispersed west and north of the plant.

Crews will need to vacuum the plastic up, a laborious process stretching into the evening.

“There’s multiple companies that are coming in, some local, even some out of the area. They will be coming in to take all of that chemical away,” Hunt said.

There was not any immediate threat to the public. People may notice a fine white powder on their car or property but a small amount is not dangerous.

“If there’s any risk, it would be to stir it up significantly and to breathe it in. All of it right now is on the ground, on roofs, on tops of cars,” Hunt said.

The area around the plant, bordered by Garfield Avenue on the north, Centennial on the east, Washington on the south and Elm Street on the west, was blocked off for much of the day, though that was later narrowed to just around Verstellus property. School buses were rerouted around the affected area. People north and west of the plant were told to shelter in place out of an abundance of caution; that advisory was lifted around 5 p.m.

According to its website, Vertellus is a specialty chemical supplier that contributes to everything from soap and pharmaceutical production to the plastics and agriculture industries. The Zeeland site “specializes in the manufacture of fine chemicals and custom formulations.

“Products made here are used as intermediates for the pharmaceutical, personal care and imaging industries as well as polymers for composite binders. Zeeland’s technical expertise includes high-pressure catalytic hydrogenation, quaternization reactions and chiral resolution,” the website says. “Zeeland’s technical expertise includes high-pressure catalytic hydrogenation, quaternization reactions and chiral resolution.”

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