COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — An industrial fire in Richmond, Ind., has been burning since Tuesday, and billowing plumes of black smoke have been seen in the skies near the Indiana-Ohio border since.
On social media, some central Ohio residents have complained of a smell in the air — and it is possible for smoke and particles to threaten air quality in the Greater Columbus area.
The industrial complex impacted by the fire stores recycling materials, including plastic.
Ohio State University Associate Professor Andrew May has worked with particles and smoke produced by combustion for several years, and plastic is what worries him the most about what could be in that smoke.
“We have stuff like chlorine in there, and there’s a lot of nasty chlorinated compounds that could be produced in the chemistry,” May said. “The bigger question is, where is it going once it’s emitted? Right, like the wind isn’t stagnant. Is it a major health concern for your typical person? I don’t know. In Columbus, do we need to worry about this? It depends how the wind’s blowing.”
Storm Team 4 Meteorologist Ben Gelber said Thursday said eastward winds likely carried some smoke residue.
“[It] may explain what we’ve seen on social media, that some folks thought they detected a bit of smoke or light haze Wednesday,” Gelber said. “Wind currents Thursday turned more southerly across western and central Ohio, and will remain light out of the south through tomorrow, which will direct additional effects farther away from the Columbus area.”
As the fire diminishes, impacts this far east will, too. Weekend showers should wash out any lasting effects, Gelber said.
The U.S. and Ohio EPA have been monitoring air quality near the Indiana-Ohio border.
The Ohio EPA declined an interview but wrote in a statement, “Ohio EPA is assessing and monitoring Preble County, Ohio, following the Richmond, Ind., fire. The air quality data Ohio EPA staff have seen so far shows no health risk to Ohio residents.”
Officials in Richmond — about 100 miles from Columbus — are hoping the fire ends very soon.
“I am happy to say that we have it 90%. It may be a little bit more out and we’re hoping to have the fire close to 98, 99% out sometime this evening. And if not, tomorrow morning,” said Richmond Fire Chief Tim Brown on Thursday.