Cleanup continues at Richmond fire site
Richmond Mayor Dave Snow provided an update Thursday on efforts to clean up the site of a massive industrial fire that forced many residents from their homes last month. Snow said city, state and federal officials are collaborating to not only remove materials at or near the site, but also remediate any environmental concerns.
The fire at the former My Way Trading Warehouse, owned by Cornerstone Trading Group LLC, broke out on April 11. The blaze engulfed the entire building that the city said was stacked wall-to-wall with plastic materials, as well as containers outside that also contained plastics.
As the materials burned, a large plume of black smoke sent debris several miles away, including into parts of Ohio.
Authorities ordered residents within a half-mile of the site to evacuate, affecting some 1,500 people. The evacuation order was lifted five days later.
The city has issued a formal request to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to undertake an environmental investigation and action to remove materials. Additionally, an environmental consultant has been tapped to monitor the process, the city said Thursday.
The next steps in the cleanup process, according to the city, include identification of the materials and debris on the site, which the EPA will begin on May 15. Officials will then develop a plan to safely remove and dispose of the materials, and conduct follow-up environmental testing at the site once the materials are removed.
“Although the full clean-up effort will take quite some time, we’re working diligently to get it moving,” Snow said in a news release. “The sooner we get started the sooner we’ll get it finished. We’re going to keep pushing forward every day until we can put this behind us and look ahead.”
As the fire was still burning last month, Snow blamed the blaze on the building’s owner, Seth Smith, who had been previously cited by the city’s Unsafe Building Commission and given an order to clean up the property, which was ignored.
“That business owner is fully responsible for all of this. Everything that’s ensued here – the fire, the damages, the risk that our first responders have taken, and the risk these citizens are under – are the responsibility of that negligent business owner,” Snow said on April 12.
The city did not provide an update on any potential action being taken against Smith for the fire. The city did not respond to an IIB request for more information at deadline Thursday.
In late April, a class-action lawsuit was filed against Smith and Cornerstone Trading Group, claiming Smith was aware of the unsafe conditions at the warehouse but failed to take any steps to remedy the “ultra-hazardous conditions” in “blatant disregard for the safety and welfare” of nearby residents.