Neighbors hear loud boom that shook their home

DUNHAM TWP.-When Rick Lewis and his wife stepped outside Tuesday morning, they heard a loud boom that shook the walls of their home on Joe Skinner Road in Belpre.

They thought someone driving down Ohio 7 had blown a tire because of the sound, but could not imagine where the rumble had come from.

“Suddenly there was a big poof of smoke through the trees, and we realized one of those tanks over there was on fire,” Lewis said.

An explosion and fire reported at 8:50 a.m. from Enviro-Tank off Ohio 7 caused several injuries Tuesday morning, with first responders, county fire departments and EMS on the scene.

Residents along Joe Skinner Road, directly across from the company that specializes in waste transportation, treatment, recycling, disposal and industrial cleaning, knew little about what happened from the thick tree line separating them from the highway, and were all allowed to remain at home and in the area.

Most residents who did not have to leave home Tuesday chose to stay indoors.

“It caught fire a while back too since we’ve lived here, so this isn’t the first time something happened,” Lewis said.

Lewis said he has lived in his home for four years, and has been in the area for nearly 15.

“It’s always been a concern, because we don’t know what kind of chemicals they’re working with or what they’re pumping out of there,” he said.

Vada Eagle is Lewis’ neighbor, and has lived at her property for 40 years.

“I was asleep, and I woke up to the feeling of the windows rattling,” she said. “I never heard the boom, but it was not how I expected to wake up.”

Many residents reported dialing 911, and went to houses next door to see if neighbors had more information.

“It hit and shook this place, and because we had all this bad weather before, I figured it was thunder,” said Judy Zingo, an employee at Gail J. Rymer and Associates on Joe Skinner Road. “We did not call 911, because we figured with all the cars traveling down that road, someone had to have seen it directly.”

Some residents reported that it seemed to take a while to hear sirens after the incident.

“I just hope everyone is OK and that any injuries aren’t too serious,” Zingo said. “I’m just glad it was only that and not more.”

Later Tuesday morning, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office reported that those who had been injured had been removed from the scene and were being treated for burns, and some were reportedly serious.

Lewis said his family has been concerned about leaks and fires from Enviro-Tank before, and has even placed calls to the Environmental Protection Agency in the past.

“There’s been times there were fumes coming from there that were so strong that we couldn’t even be outside,” he said. “I think they need to have someone from the EPA come down here and check for more problems.”

Zingo said she had not noticed any major issues with being the company’s neighbor before.

“Hopefully we find out more soon,” she said. “Anything like this is truly awful for safety.”