Special report: After the fire… Huge facility sits near rail yard

Buildings at 625 and 822 Depot St. were acquired by Naik’s Evergreen Holdings LLC in its multimillion-dollar purchase of the Gateman Group in 2011.

That purchase was announced with fanfare at the Parkersburg Municipal Building.

“Acquisition of the Gateman Group businesses will allow IEI and SirNaik to literally expand its services for a total recycling solution to the plastic industry for post-industrial and post-consumer activities,” Saurabh Naik, Naik Group of Industries president and CEO, said at the time.

Officials said the expansion could eventually lead to hundreds of jobs, and the inclusion of properties like those at Depot Street was seen as a key factor in developing a port at the nearby West Virginia Department of Transportation facility. Naik and Parkersburg Mayor Bob Newell met with Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin on that subject.

The building at 625 Depot St. was formerly known as Atlas Steel and maintained that name during its ownership by the Gateman Group and the Naik companies. A sign at the business bears the names Atlas Steel and Greenpak, one of Gateman Group owner E.R. “Ted” Gateman’s companies.

Many of the multi-paned windows at the facility are painted over, but a number are broken, offering glimpses from the street of materials stacked inside. Company names are visible on some boxes, including DuPont. Boxes bearing the admonition “Do Not Stack Over 3 High” can be seen.

A large open loading bay door gives a glimpse of a spacious interior with apparent ample walking room, something that officials report had been lacking at some of the Naik warehouses.

A large amount of chlorine is stored inside 625 Depot St., and Parkersburg Fire Chief Jason Matthews said it is “stored correctly,” in 5-gallon drums, wrapped in plastic, and stacked two high on pallets.

“They’re not stacked three or four high where they’re falling over,” he said.

Sunny Naik said the chlorine storage has been in place at the building for more than 20 years.

“We do store pool chemicals for a company who manufactures in West Virginia,” he said. “This is stored in the proper manner.”

Matthews said chlorine could pose a danger in a fire, noting adding too much of it to a pool can be harmful to individuals’ health. The department is working on a plan to address a potential fire at the site, he said.

In February 2011, Parkersburg Fire Department personnel, including Matthews, inspected 625 Depot St. and noted a number of violations, including insufficient markings on containers, lack of an up-to-date sprinkler inspection and materials stacked too high.

“There’s just a lot more (now) than there was then,” Matthews said.

The next day, 822 Depot St. was inspected and flagged for improper storage of combustible materials and insufficient maintenance for the fire alarm and sprinkler systems.

Both inspections took place a few months before the sale to the Naik companies was completed.

In January 2015, SirNaik sought a property tax exoneration for the site, due to a dispute over the property’s valuation. When that was denied, the company paid the $121,956 it owed in personal property taxes.