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Questions about air quality still remain after Nox-Crete fire

Nox Crete Chemical Fire Omaha
Posted at 10:24 PM, May 31, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-01 12:27:10-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Authorities are still picking up the pieces and figuring out details about the Nox-Crete fire on Monday.

Residents that were evacuated were allowed to go back home today but there are many unanswered questions about what kind of chemicals burnt up yesterday and how that can affect Omaha residents' health.

The Omaha mayor’s office sent a statement Tuesday that any questions on what chemicals were inside the facility should go to Nox-Crete. 3 News Now called and they said they weren’t interested in talking. 3 News Now followed up that the public is curious and they hung up the phone.

But a formal state report could be coming in the near future. There is now a formal state investigation by the Department of Environment and Energy on the environmental issues the downtown fire may have caused.

They told 3 News Now Tuesday that they observed the site today, are working quickly and were hesitant to pinpoint an exact date on when the report would be released.

So, it's not exactly clear right now what was inside the facility during the fire, what burned and how dangerous those chemicals might be in the air.

The Douglas County Health Department says it's gathering information and can share more publicly soon, saying maybe even on Wednesday.

"We have to find people that know their chemistry inside and out and what sort of thing to expect from this,” said Phil Rooney, spokesperson for the Douglas County Health Department.

Nox Crete did send out what's called a ‘Notification of Environmental Concern' to the city of Omaha Tuesday.

In that report, it says acids, bases, and solvents in large quantities were involved in the fire, but no specific amounts.

It also mentions more distinct petroleum products, Mineral Spirits and Naphtha were released.

3 News Now also tracked down an inventory of chemicals Nox-Crete had inside at the end of 2021, something that's legally required to be reported to the state.

We found over two dozen substances. Many that are reported multiple times, stored differently, include three products listed as extremely hazardous. This includes sulfuric acid and two chemical compounds.

Some of the items listed indicate they are acutely toxic, can cause skin or eye damage, can be breathing hazards or can be cancer-causing.

The Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy was quick to point out that just because chemicals were on site doesn't mean they were involved in the incident.

And if you aren't feeling well and feel you may have breathed in chemicals, the health department says don't wait and go to the doctor.

"Something like that, I don't think you want to wait when you're talking about something that may be affecting your lungs for example,” said Rooney.

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