Preparing for a disaster: Kentucky officials learn new techniques 27 years after major chemical spill


GREENUP COUNTY, KY (WOWK) – In 1995, the city of Wurtland, Kentucky experienced an unexpected event that shook the entire region.

A sulfuric acid gas tank started to leak at the DuPont chemical plant in the city causing a chemical spill and a sulfuric acid cloud, which forced the evacuation of nearly 1,500 people in Ohio and Kentucky and closed parts of two highways.

“It was very chaotic because it was a leak that we couldn’t stop,” Greenup County Public Safety Director Buford Hurley recalls.

Emergencies services had some preparations in place to fix the issue but now times have changed. With the advancement of technology, those who respond when catastrophe hits will have to adapt.

At the Kentucky Extension Office in Wurtland, not far from the area the spill happened in 1995, emergency officials from all over came together to run through a similar scenario but with modern solutions.

“We want to learn new techniques and new ways of doing the response business,” U.S. Coast Guard Security Specialist Todd Childers says Monday night.

Law enforcement, fire, ems, weather, and other emergency entities came together to work through a fictional situation, featuring the Veolia plant, which replaced DuPont.

Representatives with Veolia North America say they plan to host another safety event in partnership with these same officials in the near future.

However, this doesn’t just affect Greenup County, there are other chemical plants all over the tri-state, and instructors at the tabletop event say being prepared when catastrophe hits, is universal.

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