Pastor expresses concern over toxins from plant fire

Private cleaning crews spent Thursday sifting through the debris at two chemical companies that have caught fire at least three times in less than a week.

"We've had a number of chemicals involved onsite," said Memphis Fire Department Battalion Chief Raymond Lewis. "We've had a couple of poisons and a couple of pesticide products that were involved in the incident."

Fire officials can't say with great certainty whether chemicals left behind pose a danger to the community.

"What we are hoping and what we believe is that most of the chemicals," Lewis said. "I can't guarantee it, but we believe that most of the chemicals were burned up in the fire."

Local church pastor Kenneth Whalum, Jr. said that assessment is a little to vague. "People just want to know is the air going to kill me today, or tomorrow, or next year," he said.

Whalum said a lack of information suggests that the government doesn't know, or doesn't care, about a potential risk to the community.

"In the absence of some kind of official direction, I mean, what is a person to think?" he asked.

Fire officials said they have consistently monitored the quality of the air. Lewis said was no indication that dangerous products made their way off the site, but he admitted there are no guarantees.

Meanwhile, Whalum expressed concern about whether or not it is safe for students to start school Monday.  Walker Elementary is just over a mile west of Pro-Serve, and Graves Road Elementary approximately a mile to the east.