Electrical malfunction likely caused huge Pennsylvania chemical plant fire

A massive fire was reported at Miller Chemical in Adams County, Pennsylvania, June 8, 2015.

The Hanover-based chemical company at the center of a contamination of a major midstate waterway on Monday issued an advisory stating that preliminary reports suggest the fire, which destroyed the company's plant, was likely caused by an electrical circuit malfunction "rather than by arson or any product or manufacturing process of the company."

In one of the first major media advisories since the June 8 fire, Miller Chemical and Fertilizer, whose Adams County plant was destroyed in a fire a week ago, said company representatives, environmental experts and a state- certified remediation firm continue to coordinate efforts with the Department of Environmental Protection to prevent further runoff. The advisory states that further runoff into Slagle Run and Conewago Creek has been stopped.

With no retention structure in place at the time of the fire, water that was used to fight the fire last week entered the waterways that feed into the Conewago, forcing authorities to issue mandatory water restrictions.

The contaminated water led to widespread fish kills, with thousands of dead fish floating on the surface of the creek in places as it worked its way north on its snake route. The Conewago, which flows north in places, is a source of public water for thousands of residents in Adams, York and Cumberland counties. The creek eventually empties into the Susquehanna River downstream.


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Miller continues working on setting up a temporary structure for holding runoff water, stated the press advisory, which was signed by company spokeswoman Barbara Klunk.

As part of the clean- up effort, Miller has erected a large, above-ground tank, which will be used to contain water pumped from the affected area before arranging for its removal.

Miller - with the cooperation of various agencies - continues to monitor the Conewago Creek, the advisory said. DEP is in the process of testing the Conewago Creek to monitor contaminants and how quickly they dissipate. The oxygen levels have improved, the advisory states.

Miller Chemical is also working on the removal of damaged building materials and clearing the site.

The company manufactures water soluble fertilizers used for commercial agricultural crops.

Miller said the company continues to be "extremely appreciative of the support shown by the community and in particular its immediate neighbors."

"Miller has been a member of the community for over 60 years and is grateful for the constructive relationship built with its neighbors over that time," Klunk writes in the advisory.

Miller blends dry and liquid raw materials to manufacture government-approved agricultural products that are used in food crop production. No chemicals are reacted in the blending process, Klunk wrote in the press release.

She added that Miller's specialty agricultural products are of low toxicity, including ingredients such as seaweed extract, and are used at low rates on crops.

The company was founded in 1937. Its products are sold domestically and in over 90 foreign countries.

The fire remains under investigation.