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COUNTY: SEABOARD, STATE WITHHELD INFORMATION ON RISKS

COUNTY: SEABOARD, STATE WITHHELD INFORMATION ON RISKS

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Guilford County officials say they don't know the exact dangers of chemicals and wastes stored at Seaboard Chemical Corp., because state officials and Seaboard workers haven't given them information they requested nearly two months ago.

Despite repeated requests, state officials and Seaboard workers did not give county officials a complete inventory of chemicals at the Jamestown plant, charges a Monday letter from Larry Leach, Guilford County's director of environmental health.Chemical samples that county officials requested also were not taken, and county officials never were told exactly what work was being done at the site, states the letter, addressed to Bill Meyer, director of the state's Solid and Hazardous Waste Division in Raleigh.

The letter summarizes what county officials said were their concerns after they met March 15 with state officials and the trustee for the bankrupt company to discuss cleanup plans for the plant.

``During the course of that meeting, it became apparent that the problems about which we were concerned were not simply matters of a lack of communication between your staff and local government,' the letter states. ``Rather it was an instance where some activities that should have been performed had not been undertaken, while others had been conducted in an incomplete or insufficient manner.'

Efforts to reach Meyer were unsuccessful Monday.

But news of the letter surprised Brooks Reitzel, a High Point attorney who is Seaboard's trustee.

Reitzel said he had left the March 15 meeting thinking he and officials agreed on what was needed at Seaboard. County officials never requested some of the items mentioned in the letter, he said.

For example:

The letter states that county officials requested ``several weeks ago' that ethers stored on the site be sampled to determine their condition. Reitzel said did not know of such a request.

The letter states county officials requested, but have not received, a complete inventory of chemicals and wastes stored at Seaboard. Reitzel argues that workers at Seaboard have reported what is listed on manifests at the site. Marilyn Braun, director of the county's Emergency Management Assistance Agency, said that office received only a short, handwritten list of chemicals in early February - not a manifest list.

State officials decided Friday the chemicals should be sampled and asked Reitzel to hire Four Seasons Industrial Services of Greensboro to clean the site. Reitzel still has to get a federal bankruptcy judge's approval for Four Seasons to do the cleanup.

But Four Seasons began sampling chemicals Saturday. Workers found volatile ether crystals lining four drums and potentially unstable peroxides in a large tank containing chlorinated chemicals.

Because ether crystals can be explosive, Four Seasons detonated the drums Monday. The company is monitoring the large tank to determine how to stabilize the peroxides in the large tank, operations manager Jim Noles said Tuesday.

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