MEMPHIS, TN - (WMC-TV) – A North Memphis chemical company met with the surrounding community Tuesday night for the first time since a deadly explosion. But neighbors remain concerned about possible health hazards.
State Representative Antonio "2 Shay" Parkinson called the meeting. He wanted a forum for residents to air their concerns, and there are plenty to air.
The Douglass community of North Memphis is one with dignity.
"We are a community with pride," one resident said.
And a community with lots of questions two weeks after an explosion inside the neighboring PennAKem chemical plant which killed one worker and severely burned another.
"It was a loud boom -- nothing I'd ever heard before," Carolyn Dunlap noted.
Dunlap has since become worried about her health and that of her grandchildren.
"Hopefully there are no chemicals in the air that will hurt the children," she said.
Dunlap was one of more than a hundred neighbors who packed the Douglass Community Center to express their concerns to the chemical company for the very first time.
"I refuse to believe there were no chemicals released in the air," another resident said.
"There is really no release that occurred," plant manager Robert Hamm said.
In addition to clearing the air, Hamm got personal.
"I want to extend on behalf of our organization and me personally an apology if this incident has created concern and anxiousness for the community," he said.
He said PennAKem had to get a detailed plan approved by the Memphis Fire Department before restarting the plant, which the company has done. It is also consulting with a similar facility in France to understand the chemistry behind the explosion to help ensure the safety of the surrounding community.
PennAKem is not currently producing the chemical involved in the explosion. Meanwhile, officials encouraged the crowd to donate blood to help the worker who is still being treated at The MED.